Everett firefighters joining Fred Hutch COVID-19 study

At Everett’s Fire Station 5 on Thursday, potentially lifesaving work wasn’t only done by firefighters headed out on calls.

It also happened inside a tent in the station parking lot, where researchers from Fred Hutch tested firefighters for active COVID-19 and took blood samples for antibody tests.

“All of us are really trying to come together to get back to our lives,” said Fred Hutch nurse practitioner Julie Czartoski.

The Seattle COVID-19 cohort study is working with people who have the virus now, had it in the past or who are at high risk because of their jobs.

By tracking people who had coronavirus for a long time, researchers can tell how their bodies respond.

That information will help develop a vaccine.

Fred Hutch researchers connected with the Everett Fire Department, which arranged for testing.

“Station 5 is the epicenter of early COVID responses in the city of Everett,” said EFD Assistant Chief Rich Llewellyn.

The first COVID-19 patient diagnosed in the United States was in Everett.

Llewellyn said between early February and mid-March, firefighters at Station 5 contacted about two-thirds of the known COVID-19 cases handled by the department.

Early on, first responders everywhere were not as prepared with personal protective equipment.

Now, Everett firefighters treat every patient as potentially COVID-19 positive.

“We wanted to try to capture first responders who were out there before we really knew what to do,” Czartoski said.

Czartoski hopes the study provides reassurance about how effective PPE can be.

She uses herself as an example, since she works regularly with coronavirus patients.

“At first I was really nervous and I was worried about my kids at home and my family and I’d run home and shower,” Czartoski said. Now, “I feel really confident that if I have my mask on correctly and I’m wearing my hood and I have my gown on and I take my gloves off appropriately that I’m not going to get it.”

The study will help the Everett Fire Department figure out how many firefighters ever had COVID-19.

Only a couple were diagnosed, and it’s unclear if they got it on the job.