HIALEAH, Fla. – According to the Florida Department of Health numbers, Hialeah has the second highest positive coronavirus from test results in the state of Florida.
With the number of cases continuing to be on the rise, Hialeah’s fire department wanted to find out which of its firefighters have been exposed and which have not. The department secured rapid antibody testing through the University of Miami. Researchers from the university were helping to administer the tests at Fire Station No. 7.
David Rodriguez, District Chief, Hialeah Fire Department, believes the effort may be the first of its kind as about 230 firefighters will be tested.
“We’re probably one of the first in the country, maybe even the nation,” said Rodriguez. “We’re trying to do this to get an idea, to get a baseline, of the health of our firefighters.”
The test will determine if any of the firefighters have been exposed to COVID-19, and, if so, if any have immunity.
“It’s kind of giving an idea of, throughout the whole fire department, what we’re dealing with. Some people don’t feel any symptoms whatsoever. Some people could have it, some may not,” said Rodriguez.
Of the 146 firefighters tested so far since Wednesday, officials said seven have been positive for antibodies and are now isolated while awaiting the results of a swab test to find out if they are still infected.
The tests take only seconds to administer involving a simple prick of the finger with results coming back in 10 to 15 minutes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibody test results are important in detecting infections with few or no symptoms.
"It’s a quick blood sample, just like a little needle stick, just like you would do if you’re a diabetic to test your blood sugar," said Captain Stephen Lyon, Hialeah Fire Department training officer.
The tests also provide peace of mind to those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight every day.
“Remember, we’re on the front lines. We gotta be out there and we’re going to continue to be out there, but we want to make sure that our guys are healthy to be able to provide the service that we do," said Rodriguez.
The firefighters’ union purchased about 300 tests in case anyone needs to be re-tested. All of the testing is expected to be completed by Thursday.
Meanwhile, Hialeah’s mayor is concerned about his residents. Mayor Carlos Hernandez handed out protective face masks to the city’s elderly population Thursday. “Every apartment will get two masks for these seniors, many of whom have not been able to buy one; have not been able to have access to one.”