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Austin EMT who had COVID-19 is almost ready to go back to work

The Austin paramedic who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in mid-March is expected to return to work as early as next week, officials said on Wednesday.

"She healed very well, and so she's going to be back on the ambulance," said Selena Xie, president of the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Employees Association.


City and county health officials last week announced that the paramedic was put under quarantine after testing positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

She experienced about a week of moderate respiratory and a few other symptoms, Xie said, but has made a full recovery.

Her name is not being released in order to protect her privacy.

Austin Public Health's Jen Samp confirmed Wednesday that the paramedic had recovered and was coming back to work, but she said a timeline had not been confirmed.

While acknowledging that infection may give the paramedic—so far the only EMS employee to test positive—some immunity, health officials were adamant that she would follow the same safety protocols and practices that her fellow medics must follow.

There is still too much that is new about the virus to allow any confidence in the length and scope of any of the post-infection immunity offered by other, more well-known viruses, officials said.

"She'll be treated the same way and practice [safety protocols] that any other EMS person is practicing," Samp said. "Because we are in a Phase 5 community spread, all personnel will be taking the proper measures to ensure the public emergency responders are safe."

The Centers for Disease Control has said healthcare workers who test positive and get symptoms for COVID-19 can return to work 72 hours after the fever has ended, or two weeks after the symptoms first started.

"She has about half a week left," Xie said.

She was quarantined in a private space provided by the EMS agency, which also provided food and health resources.

It is still unknown how she contracted the illness, Xie said.

City officials have said they expected some paramedics to contract the illness due to the quick community spread and as a hazard of the job.

It is not believed that she broke any protocol, Dr. Jason Pickett, Austin's alternate health authority, said in a statement last week.

She was the city's first in the first-responder community to be diagnosed with COVID-19, and, as of Wednesday, she is the only EMS employee out of 575 staff and front-line responders in the agency, Xie said.

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