By Renée Santos

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY(CBS13) — Potential exposures to COVID-19 is the new reality facing first responders every day.

It’s now the driving force behind changes in San Joaquin County where nine firefighters were exposed to coronavirus patients. Three from the Manteca Fire Department are away from their engines at home in isolation waiting to be tested. Six firefighters from Stockton have already been tested. Their results were negative.

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Lantz Rey, Administrative Battalion Chief with Manteca Fire, didn’t reveal the exact station that was affected but says the absences have not impacted their ability to respond to emergencies.

“We’ve been able to, the department, to hold on because it’s only one crew at this moment. If we have multiple crews it may become an issue but we are having people that are stepping up and filling those shifts,” he said.

Bill Caldera with Manteca District Ambulance works closely with Manteca Fire. He says his team may also have been exposed and have self-isolated.

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“The best thing to do is prepare that every call could be this virus,” he expressed.

For all first responders, protective gear like masks, glasses, gowns, and gloves are now always worn on calls.

“We all have these barrier devices after the call then we have to decontaminate this ambulance back here so that we can go to the next call,” Caldera explained.

Elizabeth Mendez is grateful for the steps being taken now to keep everyone safe.

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“They should protect themselves they are doing a huge service to us and I want them to be safe,” she said.