(SEATTLE) – One year ago this week, Public Health-Seattle & King County identified the first known cases and death of COVID-19 in King County. Shortly after, cases began to surge across the region and state, and a regional effort to flatten the curve was implemented. As we enter year two of the pandemic, we want to look back on the critical efforts the Seattle Fire Department has been involved with to help battle COVID-19 in our City.
First responder testing site
Early in the beginning of the pandemic, King County EMS and Seattle Fire sought state Dept. of Health approval to allow paramedics and EMTs to conduct nasal swab testing. This approval to conduct nasopharyngeal tests allowed Seattle to become the first in the nation to implement a testing site for first responders, conducted by first responders in March of 2020 (first responders now get tested at the community testing sites). This was replicated by many other fire agencies nationwide.
Mobile Assessment Teams
Shortly after, in April of 2020, the City (in partnership with Public Health) took the step of testing our population who was seeing outbreaks and suffering the worst consequences from COVID-19: those living in or working at long-term care facilities and adult homes. The fire department created Mobile Assessment Teams to allow EMTs to go into these facilities to test patients and staff to help identify COVID-19 clusters and stop outbreaks. During initial visits to these long-term care and congregate living facilities across the city, SFD trained their qualified staff to manage and maintain their own testing. The Mobile Assessment Teams have received national recognition as an innovative model for addressing the emerging pandemic.
Community testing sites
Once more test kits became available and with Public Health guidance, the City transitioned to opening community testing sites to conduct tests on the public through a partnership with the UW lab. To date, we have conducted more than 650,000 COVID-19 tests at the City’s four community test sites, which are in SODO, North Seattle, West Seattle and Rainier Beach.
Mobile Vaccination Teams
As the year came to a close, we saw was hope on the horizon, as the federal government made plans to release the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to state Department of Health agencies. On January 9, 2021, the state Department of Health approved the Seattle Fire Department to serve as a vaccine distributer, meaning we were eligible to begin administering vaccine to Seattle residents and workers. Following this approval, we quickly launched our Mobile Vaccination Team program, which has administered more than 8,000 vaccines to eligible Seattleites.
This past year has shown us how resilient we are as a department and community, and that together, we can get through anything. Through widespread vaccinations, we can end this … and we can save lives.