Frequently Asked Questions Regarding COVID-19

Is the fire department still open for normal business?

            Currently, the Harwich Fire Department is still allowing citizens to come to the station to get their blood pressure checked, but each person will be screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 to ensure the safety of the department members before contact is made.

Burn permits are no longer required to burn, but you must still view the rules & regulations at if you do not already have a current copy of them. You must also call 508-430-7546 ext. 4740 each day prior to burning after 9:30am to see if it is an approved burn day.

For procedures on resale and commercial inspections, please click “FIRE PREVENTION/FORMS” at the top of our webpage to view the latest procedures.

Is the fire department changing their response to calls?

            The fire department will continue to respond to all calls made to 911, but the fire department will be proactive to ensure the safety of its members and the citizens of the town. For medical calls, call takers (dispatchers) will be screening callers to try and alert the responding Paramedics and EMTs whether the patient could potentially be experiencing signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Upon arrival, EMTs and Paramedics will wear gloves, masks, gowns, and eye protection when appropriate, if the patient may have signs and symptoms associated with COVID-19 or the reason for the call is unknown at that time. One EMT or Paramedic will make contact with the patient to determine what the patient’s needs are and assess the situation before the entire crew makes contact. Patients may be required to wear a mask while transported to the hospital until it is ruled out that the patient is not positive for COVID-19. The ambulance will be thoroughly sanitized after each patient with wipes that are able to kill the virus so there is no risk to future patients who call 911. The fire department is also trying to keep a distance of six feet with citizens when responding to engine calls and will limit the number of personnel who make direct contact with citizens.

Is the fire department testing their employees to ensure they are not spreading the virus to patients?

            The fire department is taking temperatures of each employee at the start of their shift and halfway through their shift because experiencing a temperature greater than 100.4F is the first major sign of a person having COVID-19. If the person shows up to work experiencing any other signs or symptoms associated with COVID-19, they will be sent home immediately to prevent exposure. Members are asked to not come to work if they are having any signs or symptoms and are required to make contact with the department’s EMS Officer to get tested for COVID-19. If the member tests negative for COVID-19 and once they are no longer experiencing signs or symptoms of any illness, they will be allowed back to work. If they test positive, then the member will not be allowed back to work until medically cleared.

I have been required to be quarantined, but I do not have enough medications/food/necessities to last the fourteen days and I live home alone, what do I do?

The Harwich Council on Aging is looking to support anyone who is in need of groceries, medications, or meal delivery during this time of self-isolation. Please call 508-430-7550 to reach a council on aging staff member. A couple of local grocery stores have made accommodations for seniors only so the stores will be less crowded and social distancing can be ensured. Stop and Shop is open from 6:00-7:30 daily and Shaw’s is open 7:00-9:00am on Tuesdays and Thursday for seniors only. The Orleans Whole Food Store is offering free home delivery between 2:00-4:00pm on orders placed by noon on the same day with a 10 item minimum for delivery. They are also doing curbside pick-up available from 9:00-5:00pm. Their staff members will personally shop for a person’s prepared list.

Does the fire department have any personal protective equipment to give to its’ citizens to protect them from contracting COVID-19?

Currently, the fire department is not dispersing any personal protective equipment to the public. The supply of personal protective equipment in the country is low so the department is ensuring that the members of the department have the equipment they need to keep themselves safe while responding to calls.

Is there any plan to open shelters in the community?

Currently, there is no plan to open a shelter in the community as social distancing is what is going to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). Food stores so far have been able to restock their supply at night to try and keep up with the demand. If you are in need of food, medications, or other necessities, we will put you in contact with the council on aging in conjunction with the town nurse who can assist you. The council on aging in the town is coming up with a plan to distribute cold sandwiches Monday-Friday. More information will be posted once it is available.

I believe I am coming down with signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and I am the only caregiver for someone I live with, what do I do?

First off, have you called your doctor to notify them you believe you are ill? (See testing question, if needed). Each case will be handled on a case by case basis. If you have any concerns or questions, please call 508-430-7550 to reach a Harwich Council on Aging representative.

I need to go to the hospital and I cannot leave my child or spouse at home, what do I do?

            Currently, hospital guidelines state that patients can only have a relative present if the patient is a minor, in active labor, or receiving end of life care. Therefore, we are following hospital guidelines and only allowing patients to bring a relative if they meet the criteria above. All efforts should be made to try and find an alternative solution if you have a loved one who cannot stay home alone, but if not able to, we will handle each case on a case by case basis. However, if you believe that you have signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and no one is able to take care of that loved one, we will take them with us in the ambulance, but they will be required to wear a mask and will be treated as if they could potentially have COVID-19 as well.

What are the symptoms and complications of COVID-19?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

If I want to be tested for the COVID-19, what can I do?

Due to an overwhelming demand for COVID-19 testing since the roll out of drive-through testing this week, Cape Cod Healthcare has updated its policy relative to physicians able to order testing for patients. As of March 20, 2020, a physician must have affiliated status with Cape Cod Healthcare’s hospitals to submit a patient’s order for drive-through testing at Cape Cod Community College. By limiting the ability to order testing to physicians in the Cape Cod Healthcare network, the healthcare system will be better able to meet the needs of the community. A physician outside of the network will not be able to submit an order for testing.

Below are the steps required for testing for in-network providers:

  1. If you are experiencing symptoms, including fever, coughing or shortness of breath, call your doctor.
  2. Your doctor will screen you over the phone to assess if you should be tested.
  3. If your doctor determines you should be tested, he or she will provide an electronic order for the test which is sent directly to the testing facility.
  4. Cape Cod Healthcare staff will then call you to set up an appointment for testing.
  5. REMEMBER you must have an appointment to get tested or you will be turned away.

If you are experiencing symptoms, including fever, coughing or shortness of breath, and do not have a primary care physician that is part of the network or a primary care physician at all, call the dedicated call center at 508-862-5595 to be screened for COVID-19 testing with a Cape Cod Healthcare clinical provider via phone. If testing is required, the clinical provider will follow the same process of submitting the doctor’s order to the testing team and you will be called with a testing appointment time.

If you are experiencing SERIOUS symptoms and do not have a primary care provider, please visit the triage tents located outside of Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital for screening.

What should I do if someone in my household is quarantined?

  • Establish a room (and a bathroom if possible) which only the quarantined person can use.
  • The quarantined person should not leave home at all, except for urgent medical care. If urgent care is needed, they should wear a surgical mask at all times while outside of the home. Do not take buses, subways or ride shares like Uber or Lyft. Use a personal vehicle or call an ambulance to get to the provider’s location. And call ahead to your provider so they can be ready.
  • All household members should practice strict personal hygiene. That means washing your hands frequently with soap and warm water. When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue every time. Then wash your hands.
  • Do not share plates, glasses, cups, or utensils. Wash all these items in a dishwasher or with dishwashing liquid and warm water.
  • Wipe down frequently used surfaces with a household disinfecting cleaner – especially if they’ve come in contact with bodily fluids like spit, mucus, urine, feces, or vomit.
  • Do not allow visitors in your home.

All household members should monitor their own health and call their healthcare provider if they develop symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath).

I am experiencing signs and symptoms of COVID-19, do I need to go to the hospital?

            A patient’s signs and symptoms will dictate if they need to seek additional medical care. If the patient’s condition is not worsening and they do not have difficulty breathing, then they do not require medical attention at the hospital. If you do not have difficulty breathing, but have flu-like symptoms and have a history of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart failure, COPD, asthma, or are immunocompromised in any way, call your healthcare provider and seek their advice. If you do have a cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, then seek care at the hospital. If a patient is unsure of what to do, they can call their healthcare provider and seek their medical advice.

I have heard there has been a positive case in the town. Has a list been put out on where this individual has been recently and who they have infected?

            Please be assured that the Health Department and the VNA are working closely with any positive cases to trace all close contacts and notify them of the situation. A close contact is defined as someone who has been within 6 feet of the case for a prolonged period of time. We will release all pertinent information as it becomes available of cases in the town.

Will the department take contributions from citizens, such as masks, gloves, etc?

            Yes, they can be brought in to the lobby at headquarters and we will go through the items that are brought in to see how the department can use them.

Version 2.0 March 23, 2020