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Wood County first responders gear up with masks

From left, Officers A. Mason and T. Worstell with the Parkersburg Police Department receive a delivery of N95 masks. (Photo Provided)

PARKERSBURG — All around Wood County, first responders are gearing up with masks to help keep them safe while serving during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said officers, like other departments, do not have the luxury of being able to work staggered shifts.

Stephens pointed out that crime has not stopped due to COVID-19.

“The SWAT team recently had to make some arrests, and a couple of the people taken into custody were sick and had to be taken to the hospital,” said Stephens.

Stephens said that incident led to questions of COVID-19 and whether those officers would have to be quarantined for two weeks.

“Our department needs to wear masks and stay as cautious as possible during this pandemic,” said Stephens. “The last thing we want is for our officers to be exposed and unable to serve the community.”

The people in question were not tested because they did not meet the criteria for testing at that time, Stephens said.

Stephens said his officers and SWAT have since been equipped with full and half -face masks.

According to Rick Woodyard, Wood County 911 emergency management director, 800 N95 masks were delivered to Wood County Wednesday and were immediately distributed as part of a statewide effort to aid first responders.

The Parkersburg Police Department is using the N95 masks for officers, but also has face shields for the SWAT team.

“Two officers died in Detroit recently due to exposure and the contracting the COVID-19,” Chief Joe Martin said. “We are not invincible and need to take these precautions to keep citizens and our departments safe.”

Woodyard said that he is working with the county commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to obtain 5,000 masks and gloves.

Woodyard has also requested more masks, gloves, face shields and hospital gowns from the state.

“This virus has been spreading at alarming rates, and there is no telling how much supplies we will need and how quickly we will go through it,” said Woodyard. “It is better to be prepared and not need it, than be hit hard and in need of these supplies.”

Stephens asked the public, In an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19, to follow these recommendations.

Can it be handled over the phone? If so, the department will be glad to assist over the phone.

Need an officer to go to a residence? Go outside if possible to limit contact between those in the home and those who have responded.

“Some situations we are able to be handled with more caution than others, and we just want to take every precaution to keep everyone involved as safe as possible,” said Stephens.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com

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