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Searcy firefighters step in to help COVID-19 testing clinic

Instead of fires, some Searcy firefighters are fighting COVID-19 by filling the open spots at Unity Health's drive-thru testing clinic.

SEARCY, Ark. — As COVID-19 continues to wear on the hospital systems across central Arkansas, the Searcy Fire Department is trading in their overcoats and boots for a different kind of protective gear – ones better suited to the pandemic.

"We've got a great group of guys here that are willing to step up and help the community," Captain Corbry Swain said.

For them, helping is just part of the job description. So when their community needed help, they jumped at the opportunity.

Even if it meant putting on PPE to do it.

"We asked what we could do to help with COVID," Capt. Swain said. "They said it would be a huge help if they could open up the COVID lines, so we volunteered some of our personnel."

Instead of fighting fires, some are fighting COVID-19 by filling the open spots at Unity Health's drive-thru testing clinic.

"Been seeing an average of 150 people come through a day," Steven Webb, President and CEO of Unity Health, said. "The busiest we've been since we reopened is 180."

It's not as busy as when they were testing during the first surges of COVID – they hit almost 400 tests a day then.

But this time, they don't have the staff to draw from other units. They're all busy dealing with their own COVID emergencies.

"But now that volumes picked back up, we've really managed this with volunteers, staff that have come out and still go back and do their normal jobs," Webb said. "So it hasn't been a full-time job for somebody."

And the firefighters aren't alone in this, other organizations have stepped in to help staff the site too.

While it's not what they normally do, Captain Swain says that's ok.

It's just another part of the job.

"We're just willing to step in and just do our part," he said. "I hope people see that, with a lot of the negativity coming around, we hope people see that 'hey, they're asking themselves what can they do instead of trying to tell everybody what they should do.'"

Webb said they're unsure of how long the drive-thru testing site will stay open, but they'll continue to evaluate the need.

The site is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon.

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