The virus did not creep toward San Jose firefighters. It lurked among them.
It was March 6, a week after the country’s first community-transmitted COVID-19 case at a Vacaville hospital. Exposure to the virus remained largely linked to overseas travel. California’s case count had just scraped triple-digits.
Quietly and without realizing it, a busy San Jose firefighter had carried coronavirus to his fire station. He covered a shift for a buddy at another firehouse, exposing colleagues there. He attended a career development course at the department’s training center — and the disease spread further.
Within the week, about 10 percent of the workforce had been exposed. Fifteen San Jose firefighters tested positive — the largest known cluster among Bay Area first responders and a wake-up call, even for those who thought they’d seen it all.