Denise G. Callahan
West Chester Twp. Fire Chief Rick Prinz has been hospitalized with the coronavirus, and officials say service won’t suffer in his absence.
Prinz’ long-time girlfriend and WLWT-TV reporter Karin Johnson told the Journal-News she took the chief to West Chester Hospital on Saturday after he began feeling ill on Oct. 27. She said the doctors told him he can expect bad symptoms for about another week, and they have not given him a release date.
She said it’s been “like a rollercoaster. One day he had energy and thought the worst had past, the next he was knocked down again. By day eight, all he was doing was sleeping and I mean all day and night long.”
They plan to treat him with convalescent plasma and Remdesivir.
There have been 10,540 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Butler County since the pandemic descended in March.
Township Administrator Larry Burks said Prinz took every precaution, notifying everyone he has been in contact with immediately after he tested positive and the assistant chiefs are manning the helm.
“We’re hoping and praying for a quick recovery for Rick, we need him at work,” Burks said. “The township needs him because he is the leader of one of the most important departments in the township and we need him back.”
Everyone who has been in contact with Prinz is quarantining.
Burks said residents should not be concerned the pandemic will sweep through the fire department, causing them to be short-handed. Prinz does not have daily contact with the firefighters and paramedics and he and his command staff regularly communicate remotely.
“The great thing is we have almost 40 part-timers so if it were an issue operationally we can supplement with part-time firefighter,” Burks said. “There are some administrative staff in police and fire that can work from home.”
Employees throughout the township have been exposed to the virus but Burks said be believes fewer than 10 have contracted the disease. He said due to HIPPA regulations the human resources department keeps that information well guarded. Likewise, he isn’t sure how many people are currently quarantined.
“That number may be a moving target,” Burks said. “We may have people coming back, we may have people coming off, we don’t know at this time.”
There were six firefighters who tested positive from one crew at Fire Station 74 on Beckett Road in May. At that time Prinz told the Journal-News his department’s morale was already low due to the pandemic.
“They’re scared, they’re frustrated, they’re tired, they’re over it just like everybody else,” Prinz said. “Then this virus plants itself in their faces. It definitely adds to the stress.”
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