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A 42-year-old Waldo County firefighter is one of the youngest victims of the coronavirus, state health officials said.
Lt . Harold “Eddie” Moore, Jr. of the Jackson Volunteer Fire Department, had been doing had physical labor before he suffered a heart attack at his home and died on Tuesday night. He tested positive for COVID-19 after his death, according to the department’s fire chief.
Public health officials are still looking for close contacts of the firefighter, Nirav Shah, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday. They’re recommending that they all self-quarantine and get tested if symptoms of the virus develop.
Moore’s wife, a certified nursing assistant at Tall Pines in Belfast, was one of the employees who tested positive for the disease during an outbreak at the facility. She had gone home to quarantine herself, and Moore had joined her. He was quarantined for more than three weeks, and did have a few mild symptoms of COVID-19 during that time, said Fire Chief Don Nickerson, Sr. He had lost his sense of taste, and smell — both of which are signs of the coronavirus.
Nickerson said that he, and four firefighters, will quarantine for 14 days, because that is what the CDC has told them to do.
While in quarantine, Moore never went to a fire scene, even though the department responded to three fire emergencies during that time.
“He never once showed up. He knew the cost would be astronomical if he did infect anybody,” the chief said.
But as the weeks passed, Moore felt like himself again. His wife had been told she could go back to work, and by his final fire call, Moore had not had any symptoms at all for three or four days, Nickerson said.
On Monday, he was working hard cutting his firewood, and when the call came in Tuesday that a Jackson residence was burning, Moore responded. At the scene, he battled the fire, working alone to pick up a hose that weighed as much as 300 pounds, the chief estimated.
Fire departments from other communities responded to the fire, too and worked alongside the Jackson crew. Some of those firefighters are also putting themselves in quarantine.
But Moore was by himself, the chief said, “far from everybody.” After they cleared the scene, the firefighters went back to the station and Moore stayed late to tinker with a brush truck that wasn’t working right. After that, he went home, where he collapsed.
“He had an extremely wicked pain in his left arm, and was sweating profusely, according to his wife,” Nickerson said, adding that he is not afraid that he was exposed to the virus. ”I’m not apprehensive about my condition. My firefighters aren’t, either.”
National trends do show that younger patients with COVID-19 are suffering more heart attacks and strokes. One theory is that it is a result of the body’s immune response to the virus.
The fire department was the first to respond to the emergency cardiac arrest call, Nickerson said. It and the paramedics who came next performed CPR on him for more than four hours.
“We went over and above what everybody would have done,” Nickerson said. “It’s kind of daunting to see a young fellow like that, with the department, like one of my kids,” have a heart attack.
The firefighters also had “nowhere near” the amount of personal protective equipment that they would have liked, as it has been hard to obtain the correct gear these days.
“It’s been awful hard for us to get anything,” Nickerson said.
Moore worked his way up through the ranks from a junior firefighter to lieutenant. The firefighter leaves behind a wife and a son, who is also a junior firefighter.
“When he would step out to do something, he would put his whole heart in it,” Nickerson said. “As a teenager, he was a little bit cocky. But as he came around, he was a tremendous firefighter. There was nothing he could not fix on the truck. He was an asset.”
Watch: Nirav Shah talks about the situation at Tall Pines