Union official: 5,000 firefighters under quarantine nationally

At least 5,000 firefighters across the U.S. are under quarantine because of the coronavirus, an official with the International Association of Fire Fighters union told Hill.TV on Monday.

Jim Brinkley, the union’s assistant to general president of technical assistance, said on Hill.TV’s “Rising” that the number is likely higher due to “severe underreporting.”

Brinkley said only 500 of the 3,400 fire departments in the union are reporting coronavirus numbers to the union.

Among those 500 departments, 5,000 firefighters are in quarantine, 3,000 are in isolation and 700 have tested positive for the coronavirus, Brinkley said.

“This is not something that's just isolated to one area. I think the news has been really focused on what’s happening in New York and New Jersey and that's tragic ... but we’re nearly 90 days into this," he said. "This started in Washington state with 25 firefighters being quarantined, and now [we’re] seeing New York, New Jersey, Florida, where some departments a quarter of their personnel can't report for work because they are under quarantine and isolation."

Brinkley said the issue comes down to a lack of personal protective equipment available for first responders.

“I just don't understand how the richest, most powerful nation in the world is letting our first responders down,” he added.

Public health officials in states hardest hit by the coronavirus have been warning for weeks of shortages of personal protective equipment for first responders and health care personnel on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. now has more than 347,000 confirmed cases and over 10,000 coronavirus deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.