Frontline Heroes: Howard Co. firefighter puts in overtime after coming out of quarantine

First responders never know what they will find when they answer a call. That has been especially true since the arrival of the novel coronavirus. Here’s what it was like for a Howard County, Maryland, first responder.

John McConnell faced that new unknown in March during his job as a firefighter for the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services when he learned a patient he had helped transport tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

He, along with six other first responders, were quarantined while they waited to see if symptoms of the disease appeared.

When McConnell was cleared from quarantine, he immediately returned to work. On top of that, he volunteered for overtime at his station.

His commitment to keeping the community safe during the pandemic inspired his mother to nominate him for recognition as one of WTOP’s Frontline Heroes.

McConnell began as a volunteer firefighter when he was 16 years old, before he was hired to work for the Howard County fire department.

His wife is a battalion chief in Baltimore. Their two girls are 7 and 4 years old.

McConnell said his wife was also quarantined as per her department’s policy. When they got out, both went right back to work at their respective departments.

“It kind of went back to normal for us. We’re lucky to have jobs that are essential,” McConnell said. “I know a lot of people are in some hard times right now — we see those people every day in our jobs. We’re very thankful just to be able to work.”

McConnell initially didn’t believe that he had won the Frontline Heroes recognition from WTOP. He said he tossed the email that let him know because he assumed it was a scam.

Then, a friend of his from the station called to tell him he heard McConnell’s name read on-air.

“He calls me and tells me that he heard my name and I won $100 on the radio — and I just thought he was messing with me,” McConnell said. “And then he said he was serious and to go to the website … and I saw my name on there.”

McConnell said he will use his prize money to do something for his mother when the virus begins to recede and restaurants and businesses can open again.

Know someone who would be a good candidate for WTOP’s Frontline Heroes award? Nominate them online here, and their actions could be recognized on-air.

Zeke Hartner

Zeke Hartner is a digital writer/editor who has been with WTOP since 2017. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University’s Political Science program and an avid news junkie.

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