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A Day in the Life of an Essential Worker The daily routine of a columbus firefighter and paramedic during a global pandemic

Over the course of the past year, everyone’s lives have been greatly impacted. However, first responders are among those whose lives may have been impacted the most. Recently, Tom Lacey, a firefighter and paramedic for the Columbus Division of Fire, shared the ways in which his daily routine has been impacted, and how his duties and responsibilities have changed.

Lacey, who works at Station 25, explained the ways in which protocol and procedures have changed throughout the Columbus Division of Fire. He explained that in addition to wearing masks and taking temperatures daily, they now extensively clean and sanitize both the stations, and the medic vehicles, especially after known exposure to the virus. While things more recently have begun to move a little closer to normal, Lacey explained that there were many extra precautions taken at the beginning of the pandemic.

Tom Lacey (pictured first on the left) and the rest of the crew at Station 25.

At the beginning of the pandemic, staff was broken up into pods in order to help limit the spread, however this led to new issues with the division’s current temporary transfer model. Lacey explains that: “Columbus Division of Fire has more vacancies than available staff, and in order to fill them, it's sometimes necessary to shift staff to another station temporarily.” He then goes on to explain how the system had to be changed in order to create pods: “We modified our staffing deployment model, meaning whereas we normally may work at different stations from time to time we eliminated that, to ensure that we remained with the same group of coworkers, called pods to help limit potential spread.” In order to comply with the new pods while also filling vacancies, Lacey had to be moved to a different station at the beginning of the pandemic for a couple of months, and often had to work overtime in order to cover those who were quarantining.

Beyond the changes in protocol and daily routine, many first responders were faced with new fears and concerns this year, as they continued to work through unprecedented times. When asked about some of the mental impacts the pandemic had on firefighters and paramedics in Columbus, Lacey stated that “initially there was a high level of anxiety surrounding the unknowns, but as the pandemic has progressed and the protocols have adapted to deal with this pandemic, the anxiety has decreased.” He also noted that while the risk for paramedics was very high at the beginning, the average number of suspected daily covid patients that are transported has slowly decreased in the past several weeks, and many paramedics received their Covid vaccines, and therefore the risk has slowly gone down.

Lacey noted that he received his first dose of the Moderna Vaccine on December 26, 2020, and then received his second dose twenty eight days later. He explained that since he got the vaccine, he has felt much safer working. However, with the vaccine came a new demand for people to administer it. Recently, when Columbus Public Health was in need of workers, the Columbus Division of Fire stepped up, supplying paramedics to administer the vaccine.

Tom Lacey before receiving his Covid-19 vaccine.

Lacey explained that when the Columbus Division of Fire sought out paramedics to administer the vaccine, he signed up to help. He stated that he “watched videos from the CDC about the vaccine, and reviewed our own protocols for administering intramuscular injections” in order to prepare. Columbus paramedics are working with Columbus Board of Health six days a week to help administer the vaccine. Lacey plans on helping to administer about once a week at the Celeste Center at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair. Lacey also explained each paramedic is paired with a nurse form Columbus Public Health, who fills out paperwork and questions for the person receiving the vaccine and draws up the vaccine, and the paramedics then administer it. Lacey intends on continuing to help administer until the need is filled.

While there were many large changes in his daily routine at the beginning of the pandemic, Lacey notes that most things have managed to stay the same. And while he mentioned that the number of cases and the risk that he personally faces have slowly gone down, he hopes that things continue to improve, and move towards how they used to be.