COVID-19 Pandemic

Portsmouth firefighter tests positive for COVID-19

It's the first case among town staff


PORTSMOUTH — A Portsmouth firefighter has tested positive for the COVID-19 (coronavirus), Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. revealed today.

“We received word (Saturday, March 28) of our first positive COVID-19 case among staff,” Mr. Rainer stated in an e-mail. 

The firefighter was sent home Tuesday, March 24, after failing to pass the daily protocol and was put on a 72-hour watch, the administrator stated. Every employee and person entering town buildings must be screened for coughing, sneezing, travel history, and temperature, he noted.

“His shift is not due back to work until Tuesday (March 31), so he has been away from work since being sent home,” Mr. Rainer said. “We have no indication where or how the virus was contracted.” The analyses will be handled by the R.I. Department of Health, he said.

There is no current impact on the town’s public safety readiness, Mr. Rainer said.

“At the outset of this crises, every town department prepared continuity of operations plans — to include a plan to continue providing services in the event employees contract the virus,” he said. “Exercising prudent caution, and in accordance with guidance from the R.I. Department of Health, we placed the employees he had direct interaction with on 14-day self-quarantine at home.”

Those employees are asymptomatic, he said. “This is back-dated from the date of symptoms (March 23). They all are required to remain in self-quarantine until April 6. If they have no symptoms, they can return to work April 7.” 

Because of the plans put in place at the beginning of the outbreak, there is no impact on the town’s ability to provide service to residents, Mr. Rainer said.

“Asymptomatic employees directed to self-quarantine could be allowed to return to work earlier than next Tuesday (April 7) by adhering to protocols set by CDC and RIDOH, but there is no need and we have decided to maintain a cautious approach,” Mr. Rainer said.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.