Dispatchers stop asking 911 callers about COVID-19 symptoms, which raise concern with the Houston Firefighters Union

Houston, Texas (KTRK) – Those calling 911 in Houston will no longer be asked if they are experiencing symptoms like COVID, changing a month-long practice to inform first responders. Firefighters are now asked to treat every call as if the patient or home is COVID positive.

Houston Fire chief Sam Pena said the change is an admission of the widespread nature of the virus in the city and out of concern that callers were not always providing the correct information.

For months, Peña requested the public to give honest answers to protect firefighters who have sustained a large number of COVID-forced quarantines.

Related: HFD forced to park ladder trucks amid staff shortage

On the same day, the Houston Fire Department announced Captain Leroy Lucio, Houston’s first firefighter, to attend the funeral to die from COVID-19.

See: New pictures are shocking in the last days of HFD Captain, who died from COVID-19

Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, told ABC13 that he can’t figure out why the department would like less information for firefighters rather than more.

“Less information on the front lines of men and women answering calls is dangerous to firefighters, paramedics and the citizens of Houston,” Lacton said.

Chief Pena explained the change to HFD members in a memorandum received by 13 Investigates. “The prevalence of COVID-19 is high in the Houston area and COVID-19 cannot be ‘dismissed’ in the area nor properly investigated through the OEC. The health and wellbeing of HFD members, all Address and in the best interests of the patients. Potential COVID-19 should be considered as positive places and patients. No attempt or opinion should be made to consider and treat any patient as ‘non-COVID’ needed.

COVID-19 in change dispatch is the second in recent weeks affecting information. Earlier in July, the department closed the logging addresses of COVID-19 positive patients in the city-wide dispatch system. Chief Pena says that it was taking too long to register thousands of cases one by one in the Antique system.

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