The Sandwich Police and Fire Departments have made some adjustments in how they are operating during the coronavirus outbreak, though business is continuing as usual.
Police Chief Peter N. Wack said that shifts are staffed as they normally are and that officers are continuing to conduct the same enforcement as they always have. However, steps have been taken to make sure that officers are as protected as they can be from contracting the virus.
"We have added personal protective items to each patrol vehicle for the safety of our officers," he said.
The protective equipment includes gowns, gloves, and masks and the protocol is that officers responding to a home with a known coronavirus exposure will don the gear before entering the home. During traffic stops, officers are maintaining a safe distance from the vehicles that they have stopped.
Additionally, if an officer is needed to respond to a resident's home, residents are being asked to meet the officer outside of the home to prevent any possible in-home contact with the illness.
Chief Wack said that sanitizing procedures have been implemented in the department when it comes to keeping officers, cruisers, and the building clean.
"We are focused on continuing to provide the same outstanding public safety services to the community as we have in the past," he said.
He urged the community to continue to follow social distancing and personal cleanliness recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.
While officers are conducting enforcement as usual, the number of calls that police have responded to over the past week has been reduced by half from last year. Last week, officers responded to 88 calls compared to 191 from last year. Of last year's calls, 25 were officers assisting with fire department ambulance calls.
None of this week's calls included ambulance assists. Officer Michael Wood said that those assists are not happening at the moment.
Several members of the fire department have been assigned to new roles due to the outbreak, Chief John J. Burke said. EMS Officer Sean Gilrein has been assigned to safety officer and infection control; Deputy Fire Chief Timothy McMahon has been assigned to logistics; and Fire Prevention Officer Sean Miller has been reassigned from fire inspections to the Emergency Operations Center, where he serves as the situation unit leader.
EMS Officer Gilrein's duties include working with hospitals and staff to make sure that they are following the protocols surrounding personal protective equipment (PPE) for the hospitals that the department transports patients to: Cape Cod Hospital, Falmouth Hospital, Tobey Hospital, South Shore Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. He also updates staff on any updates to decontamination and PPE protocols.
With logistics, Deputy Chief McMahon is charged with tracking and obtaining protective equipment. He is also responsible for transitioning all staff to virtual online emergency medical services recertification training.
Officer Miller has been tracking all personnel, possible exposures, and PPE usage.
"He checks up on personnel on their days off making sure they are feeling good," Chief Burke said.
Deputy Chief McMahon and Officer Miller have also been working with local companies such as Aubuchon Hardware and Ace Hardware to try and secure any addition PPE that they can.
All of the vehicles in the department have been stocked with PPE equipment, including N95 masks, surgical masks, eye protection, gowns, and Tyvek suits, Chief Burke said.
"If a patient meets potential COVID criteria, you will see personnel in full PPE and two ambulances on scene," Chief Burke said.
One of the ambulances is dedicated for COVID-19 patient transport. This ambulance was put into service specifically for this purpose. The vehicle had been previously loaned to the Mashpee Fire Department and was made ready for service within two days by the department mechanic.
"The ambulance is used to transport potential COVID-19 patients only, saving the other four ambulances from potential decontamination equipment issues," Chief Burke said.
He said that there have not been any changes made to operations in the department at present, but noted that the town's COVID-19 Command Team meets regularly and changes may be made as the situation unfolds.