KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A month after losing one of their own to COVID-19, the Kansas City Fire Department has become one of the first in the country to make antibody tests available to all of its employees.
“It’s really just about accessing how many of our employees have been asymptomatic and potentially have had the virus,” KCFD Chief Donna Maize said.
Every department employee will be offered four tests over a six-month period. Each set will cost about $60 per person.
Along with the antibody testing, KCFD said it will also begin offering coronavirus tests as well.
“I’m just glad to see that they’re willing to protect us and protect the city as well,” KCFD EMT Calvin Summers said.
“There’s so many unknowns right now with COVID-19. We’re learning more every day,” KCFD Assistant Chief Jimmy Walker said.
IAFF Local 42 President Tim Dupin said they hope to start the first round of testing in a couple weeks.
EMT Billy Birmingham died from COVID-19 complications a month ago. Although his case isn’t the sole reason this testing process is moving along, the department said it doesn’t want another COVID-19 casualty.
“We absolutely want to do this, and we know he would want and his family would want us to keep our firefighters and EMS professionals safe,” Dupin said.
Millions of dollars that Jackson County received in federal stimulus funding will pay for the tests, as well as the peace of mind.
“It will also make sure that we get early notification and ongoing notification over a six-month period whether or not we have infected members that are going to be out in the community,” Dupin said.
This testing is part of a large study taking place in the U.S. and Canada. The International Association of Firefighters is collecting the data and putting it together to see what trends there are in the COVID-19 response.