Murrieta fire chief asks citizens to follow COVID-19 guidelines after personal loss

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David Lantzer. Murrieta Fire and Rescue photo

In a video made by Murrieta Fire & Rescue Chief David Lantzer told citizens there’s a significant urge to wear masks and follow guidelines, after one of his family members died of COVID-19 recently.

“The individual I was talking about in the video was my brother-in-law,” Lantzer said. “He got COVID-19.”

Lantzer said he was not sure where his brother-in-law picked up the disease, although he knew a few stories about possible interactions with others.

“He was down in El Centro Hospital, and they transferred him actually up here to Rancho Springs for further treatment,” Lantzer said.

Due to current health orders, they weren’t able to visit, and instead the family made daily phone calls asking how he was doing.

“He had been intubated, and they had actually extubated him; they took him off the ventilator,” Lantzer said. “They soon had to put him back on the ventilator, and then it was the next day or so, he passed away.”

In the video, Lantzer gave viewers a message to take the health guidelines and safety measures seriously.

“I’ve done a lot of research on my own. It’s kind of how I’m wired,” Lantzer said. “From the 1918 pandemic and the research, it’s clear that the physical distancing and wearing a mask and what not is effective in slowing down the spread and especially protecting the more vulnerable populations.”

Lantzer and his wife said they were disappointed in how some of the public continued rejecting the guidelines.

“My brother-in-law was vulnerable; he was a Type 2 diabetic,” he said. “And so diabetics don’t fare well when they get coronavirus and that was certainly the case with him.”

For Lantzer, while the video did have a personal aspect to it, he made it as a public health message.

“Listen to those who have dedicated their lives to working with viruses, who know better than you or I,” Lantzer said. “I’m just repeating what they have said and what I’ve read in the studies.

“It’s good advice, and if it can prevent you from losing a loved one well then it is worth all the aggravation and frustration that you encounter with it, because the alternatives just are not pleasant at all,” he said.

Lantzer said he has always felt that the pandemic could be managed, so long as the community does the things necessary to protect themselves and others.

“Let’s help our businesses stay open; let’s help people get back to work,” Lantzer said. “We have to do these things and it’s not going to be the same as it was for now, but we can do this and manage it.”

Lantzer and his family received a lot of support, he said.

Through COVID-19 and the second wave of business closures, Murrieta Fire & Rescue developed a number of policies in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders.

“Depending on the information we’re getting, CDC or FDA, the governor’s office, the public health agencies, then we adapt our policies,” Lantzer said. “We upped our game, so now our folks have to wear the facial coverings whenever they are out in the public or in the engine riding together in the apparatus. If they’re in the station and they can’t physically distance they have to wear them there.”

The decision didn’t stem from his personal loss, he said, but from the governor’s orders a few months ago.

“For us to do our part, to protect ourselves and for our folks to protect their families, and our folks by the nature of our job, we respond to vulnerable populations,” Lantzer said. “People call us because they’re sick; they call us because they’re injured. So we have a special responsibility to protect those folks from us, because with the coronavirus, COVID-19, you could have it and not know it for five to six days, you could be an asymptomatic spreader.”

Another reason Lantzer asked that people follow the mandates put in place was due to hospital capacity.

“The more the hospitals have capacity, the better treatment the people who do get sick will receive, not just those who get the disease but those who have other ailments who need to be in the hospital,” Lantzer said.

He asked people to look at the alternative.

“If you have nothing to worry about and you wear a mask, then what do you lose?” he said. “If this is what I know it is, although some people don’t acknowledge it as being a disease that’s deadly or some even don’t think it’s real – if it is what it is, and it’s here and it does what it does, then wearing a mask could go a long way into helping you stay safe and helping your family stay safe.

“It’s not an infringement of rights, it’s just being a good human to each other and helping each other out,” Lantzer said. “It’s just another way of coming together.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at lhowe@reedermedia.com.