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Las Vegas front-line first responders grapple with coronavirus exposure, risk

Posted at 10:24 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-17 09:43:42-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Las Vegas police, paramedics and firefighters have no choice but to respond to emergency calls and increasingly those first responders and front-line hospitality workers are facing a danger than cannot see in the form of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

13 Investigates has learned two Las Vegas officers were requested to be tested after coming in contact with a person with a presumptive positive case of coronavirus.

"Initially, when I first had a case where a couple of officers were in contact, potentially, with a presumed person with the coronavirus, I kind of jumped and I told [Sheriff Joe Lombardo] 'hey, I want them tested ASAP," said Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association.

Grammas says it turns out the officers had minimal risk of contracting COVID-19 and will be just fine. However, other officers have expressed their work-related concerns as more positive cases turn up.

"We have had a flood of phone calls emails asking questions and I've had almost daily meetings with the sheriff and talked about certain issues we're seeing," said Grammas.

Grammas says officers and the Las Vegas Police Department are taking a proactive approach to combating the spread of the virus.

Officers are already trained to notice the signs and symptoms of other infectious conditions, such as tuberculosis, a bacterial lung illness.

"It's a lot more basic, common hygiene," said Grammas.

"Wash your hands as often as you can, clean your hands with disinfectant, clean your cars, clean your gear, don't bring anything home to the family," said Grammas.

At Las Vegas Fire and Rescue, emergency calls are screened for possible COVID-19 risk.

A spokesperson told 13 Action News earlier this month the screen starts with simple questions.

"If we feel it fits that protocol and we think that person might have the virus, we will notify the crews to take special precautions to protect themselves and we will also notify the facility that person is being transported to so they are ready to accept that person," said Tim Szymanski.

As the situation unfolds, the gaming industry and Las Vegas hospitality workers are also on the front lines of helping to slow the spread of the virus.

"These casinos are practicing social distancing, other casino hotels are actually closed, the industry is being allowed to decide on their own but they are following the science." said Dr. Tony Alamo, the Physician Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.