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First Responders rise during national pandemic

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

First responders, by definition, are the ones that immediately go to the scene of an accident or emergency to assist. They include but are not limited to firefighters, EMTs, police officers, and military personnel. Amidst a worldwide pandemic, first responders are dealing with a whole new layer of danger. 

First Responders are often called heroes for their work. They deal with big and small obstacles, risking their health and safety, but this pandemic has two distinct differences. The pandemic is invisible, and there is no known solution or cure. Practices such as wearing masks and social distancing can be useful but are not guaranteed to work. 

Johnson County’s continued increase in COVID-19 cases caused County Mayor Mike Taylor to declare a mask mandate on Tuesday, July 21. Local businesses have closed or restricted access at different points during the pandemic, including the Johnson County Courthouse’s recent closure because of two confirmed cases inside. Although masks are helpful, experts explain that they are more useful for blocking your germs than protecting yourself. 

Social distancing can be helpful, but first responders rarely have that luxury in the line of duty.  First responders end up in close contact in many situations, which can put them directly in the range of what a previous Center for Disease Control (CDC) study shows is the highest concentration of germ transmission related to sneezing, coughing, and talking. 

In many cases, first responders end up in dangerous situations. One of the most well-known cases is the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Legislation such as the Never Forget the Heroes Act (Public Law No: 116-34) helps take care of first responders injured during duty. This law extends the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund until 2090, which covers medical care for first responders exposed to chemicals and other hazardous conditions when the Twin Towers fell.

Johnson County has the Mountain City Police Department, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, Johnson County Rescue Squad, 911 Dispatch,  and nine volunteer fire departments.

Find out more about local first responders in this special edition.