12 Ill. city firefighters, including chief, test positive for COVID-19

A total of 37 Springfield firefighters are now quarantined due to the outbreak, which is believed to have stemmed from contact with an asymptomatic "patient zero" outside of the department


Steven Spearie
The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Twelve Springfield Fire Department personnel, including Chief Allen Reyne, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Thirty-seven Springfield firefighters in all are currently quarantined because of the virus.

Twelve members of the Springfield Fire Department, including Chief Allen Reyne, have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 37 Springfield firefighters are now quarantined.
Twelve members of the Springfield Fire Department, including Chief Allen Reyne, have tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 37 Springfield firefighters are now quarantined. (Photo/Springfield Illinois Fire Department)

Reyne has been Mayor Jim Langfelder's point person for the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release from the city, the majority of firefighters came into contact with an individual who was asymptomatic at an outside gathering, not on work time. The individual was not a Springfield firefighter.

Since receiving test results, any employee who was in direct contact with patient zero or any firefighter who has tested positive, has been directed to have a COVID-19 test and asked to follow the guidance provided by the testing facility, including quarantining.

The outbreak has had no impact on their operations other than an increase in overtime. There are 215 firefighters with the department.

"This is our worst case scenario, there's no doubt," Reyne said by phone Monday. "It shows how pretty quickly this can spread.

"When you have that high of a number from your department quarantined, obviously the primary concern is for their well-being. You want to make sure they're healthy and able to come to work. Secondly, we have to have firefighters respond to emergencies. Those two things sometimes conflict.

"It's a real challenge right now."

Reyne said it is "inherently difficult" for firefighters to socially distance, especially when they are giving CPR, crawling into a burning building or packed into a fire engine together.

Reyne said as of Oct. 29 there were no firefighters quarantined.

"We were always worried about it," Reyne admitted. "Our members did a good job keeping it out of the firehouse. We went months without a single positive."

Reyne said he was exposed on Oct. 29 when was having dinner with two other people, one of whom was a Springfield firefighter.

Reyne said he went home from work not feeling well on Monday, but not thinking he had COVID-19. Reyne added he immediately isolated himself from family members.

Reyne, 50, felt fatigued and didn't have much of an appetite leading him to get tested on Wednesday. He learned his test result Saturday.

"For a couple of days, I certainly didn't want to get up to do anything and just laid in bed," Reyne said.

Reyne said he started feeling better over the weekend and Monday was feeling "mostly normal," except for a lingering cough.

"(The firefighters have been) checking in on one another. It's a crazy virus because everybody has different symptoms. Some guys are symptom-free.

"There are two cautionary tales. If you're not feeling well, remove yourself immediately. Just stay away from people and then follow it up with a test."

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(c)2020 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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