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Paramedics who treated first COVID case in New Orleans get vaccine

Nelson said about half of the fire department's 575 members have signed up to take the vaccine. The NOPD is working to schedule vaccinations for its officers.

NEW ORLEANS — Paramedic Zander Schwartz and his partner, Alexia Archaga were the first paramedics who took care of the first known COVID-positive patient in the city.

On Thursday, they were first paramedics to get the Moderna vaccine.

“I was wondering, ‘Am I going to be hospitalized for this? Will it kind of blow over me?’’ Schwartz recalled Thursday, eight months after that happened. “Everything was unknown, so it was very unnerving.”

So when Schwartz rolled up his sleeve for the first of two vaccination shots, it was more a feeling of relief.

Also getting the vaccine was the city's EMS director, Dr. Emily Nichols; fire Chief Roman Nelson; and Dr. Dwight McKenna, the Orleans Parish coroner.

McKenna had -- and recovered from -- the virus. He says he wants his staffers to stay healthy.

“The coroner's office is on the front line of treating those people who have already died, whose bodies come in,” he said. “Our employees are the ones who are really, really affected -- our pathologists, our drivers, our investigators.”

While the NOFD is often thought of as putting out fires, they also respond to medical calls.

Nelson said he's glad the department is also getting vaccinated now.

“Our firefighters are on the front lines just like EMS,” he said.

Nelson said about half of the department's 575 members have signed up to take the vaccine. The NOPD is working to schedule vaccinations for its officers.

For those with EMS, they're grateful this day finally came.

Schwartz said he knows masks and social distancing will be the routine for some time still, but he'll return home tonight with good news for his roommates.

“I'm going to immediately tell them, and I think everybody is going to have a sense of relaxation knowing that somebody in the house is vaccinated,” he said.

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