On a cold Sunday night in March, Long Beach firefighter and paramedic James Dolas began to feel the first tingle of illness.
The next day, as the 34-year-old came down with a fever, sore throat and muscle pain, his supervisor delivered the bad news: He feared that Dolas and other firefighters at Station 11 had been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
One day later, Dolas and eight other firefighters were confirmed as positive for COVID-19. Soon, that number doubled to 16.
Dolas self-isolated in a guestroom at home. He barricaded the door, which didn’t lock, with a chair to keep his 3-year-old daughter at bay. But he wondered whether he had already passed the virus on to her, as well as his 1-year-old daughter and his wife. For the Long Beach Fire Department, the outbreak spurred a race to contain the spread of the virus — and led to changes likely to remain mainstays of how their first responders handle emergency calls related to the coronavirus.