Who is at highest risk of exposure to COVID-19? Firefighters, drivers, pharmacists, cooks

Central Alberta firefighter says virus taking toll on mental health

The risk of contracting the novel coronavirus is high for many workers — but even higher for those working in some occupations, such as nurses, firefighters and pharmacists.

On top of that, the virus is mentally draining, says central Alberta firefighter Brad Readman.

The Alberta Federation of Labour, with the help of data experts, has created a list of the top 100 Alberta jobs where COVID-19 risk is highest.

Based on the analysis, Alberta workers considered to be at extreme risk include health-care workers such as registered nurses, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dental hygienists and paramedics.

Many other workers face significant risk of contracting COVID-19 in their workplaces, such as police officers, firefighters and other first responders, as well as workers who regularly deal with the public, such as bus and taxi drivers, recreation and fitness workers, librarians, delivery workers and those in food services.

Readman, president of the Alberta Fire Fighters Association, said firefighters across the province are taking precautions, such as temperature checks, social distancing and wearing proper personal protective equipment.

“Everyone who comes into fire stations (at the beginning of their shift) do an assessment, like checking temperatures, answering a questionnaire of any signs or symptoms,” Readman said, to keep everyone safe.

“We’ve changed our procedures in regards to who responds to calls. We’ve divided up crews to ensure only the necessary people are going into and being exposed to a patient with COVID.”

Firefighters have complained in the past about masks of substandard quality, saying they didn’t remain in place and had an odd odour.

“Anytime you talked, they just fall down,” Readman said, adding a new batch of masks is on the way.

He said the possibility remains high of contracting the virus, noting the risk ranking for firefighters is 71, according to the list, and 73.5 for fire chiefs and senior firefighting officers.

The virus poses a risk to both physical and mental health, Readman said.

“It wears on them – it’s heightened awareness all the time. Say, (previously), there’s a call about a broken arm. Now, it’s a broken arm with COVID, and that just amplifies the risk,” said Readman.

There are also concerns of bringing the virus home to spouses and children, especially during this time, when kids are spending time at home, he said.


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