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Three Members Of Kansas City Fire Department Have Now Succumbed To COVID-19

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Kansas City Fire Department
Captain Robert "Bobby" Rocha died Saturday morning of COVID-19.
Updated: November 22, 2020 at 4:25 PM CST
This story has been updated to include information about Scott Davidson and comments from city and fire officials.
Updated: November 22, 2020 at 12:11 PM CST
This story has been updated to include the news Sunday of the death from COVID-19 of Fire Department communications specialist Scott Davidson.

Two members of the Kansas City Fire Department died of COVID-19 over the weekend.

Robert “Bobby” Rocha died Saturday morning after contracting COVID-19 in the line of duty. He was 60 years old.

And on Sunday morning, Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters tweeted news of the loss of yet another department employee's death from COVID-19, communications specialist Scott Davidson. He was 45 and had worked for the department for 18 years.

Rocha was a 29-year veteran of the department and had been in quarantine since early November. He was hospitalized at the time of his death, KCFD spokesman Jason Spreitzer told KCUR.

“We can’t pinpoint when and where, but we are very confident that he contracted COVID while performing his EMS and firefighter duties,” Spreitzer said. “Our crews are constantly exposed to members of the community who are COVID-positive. At this time it’s undetermined which patient may have caused this.”

Since the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the region, EMTs and firefighters have been responding to as many as 10 pandemic-related calls a day, putting them at risk of exposure to the virus, Spreitzer said.

“It’s taken its toll on all of us just because we’re tired, we’re stressed , we’re worn down,“ Kansas City Fire Chief Donna Lake said at a Sunday news conference on the steps of City Hall.

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Laura Ziegler
Kansas City Fire Chief Donna Lake on the steps of City Hall Sunday afternoon.

Lake said 73 members of the Kansas City Fire Department are currently infected with the virus and more than 200 have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic.

Tim Dupin , president of Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said, “We truly are a family in the fire department. We eat, sleep, cook together all daylong. That’s part of the problem — we’re still in communal bunkers, two to three feet apart."

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the coronavirus was "growing out of control and is a significant threat to our public safety."

“It’s a threat to our front line workers, several of whom have given their lives to this city, who have died in the line of duty," Lucas said. "All of them served this city for decades. All worked courageously and we honor their courage and sacrifice. “

Reminding people of new restrictions on public gatherings , bars and restaurants, Lucas added:

“Right now it’s not about nurses or firefighters or paramedics or mayors or public health officials. It’s about all of you , about the steps we need you to take to keep people safe. “

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Laura Ziegler
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on the steps of City Hall Sunday afternoon.

Earlier, before news of Davidson's death, Lucas offered his condolences on Rocha's death, tweeting, “We honor his sacrifice and courage for the people of Kansas City and pray for his family, friends, our Fire Department, and all our frontline workers facing this terrible disease."

Rocha was the second Kansas City firefighter to die of COVID-19. EMT Billy Birmingham, 69, died on April 13, a month after area governments began imposing stay-at-home orders and other restrictions to try to curb the spread of the virus.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with essential news and information.
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