SFFD Crews Lack Thermometers to Self-Check for COVID-19

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San Francisco officials have drafted an order for city firefighters and emergency operations staff to take their body temperature three times per shift to guard against the spread of the coronavirus – but so far the city cannot find the 100 extra thermometers crews need to do it.

“When we called to get the thermometers it was literally, ‘We just ran out,’” said Lt. Jonathan Baxter, San Francisco Fire Department spokesman.  He added, the department checked with city vendors, then state and federal caches, without success.

Baxter said the city started to search for the 100 needed thermometers a few weeks ago when the threat of the virus became apparent.

Although six firefighters have been quarantined,  no one has developed symptoms of the virus, he said.

The effort to secure everything from added hospital beds to scarce test swabs is headquartered at Moscone Center South, the city’s nerve center to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak. But even there, critical emergency managers are not able to carry out the directive to check their temperature three times during their shift.

Mayor London Breed acknowledged the city has faced challenges amid scarce resources.

“It takes a lot of coordination and there’s definitely a lot of frustration,” she said, outside a city recreation center where workers are caring for the children of city emergency workers.

Breed, a former member of the city’s fire commission, said the department hasn’t stocked extra thermometers  because they never needed them before.

“Firefighters, the department, not necessarily do they have that equipment in the first place,” she said, “nor, that is, from my understanding, the role they necessarily play.” 

Baxter said the city does have reusable thermometers to take the patients on response calls, just not the ones to carry out shift checks. “When we secure them, we now have a plan to implement them,” Baxter said. “But again, we’re falling back to when are we going to get them and how can we get them.”

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