(CNN)The fire department in Kansas City, Missouri, lost two employees to Covid-19 in two days, a devastating development their chief called "the worst-case scenario."
Captain Robert "Bobby" Rocha and Scott Davidson, a communication specialist and paramedic, had been in the hospital "for a while" before succumbing to the virus, Fire Chief Donna Lake said.
"All of us standing here ... were close personal friends with the people we lost," the chief said Sunday during a news conference. "They're all tenured employees, so we grew up together on this department. We work together, we fight together, we live together, we eat together, we do everything like families do at work."
Lake joined health experts and officials who called for the public to follow distancing measures, mask requirements and hand washing practices as the US grapples with the most intense spread of the virus to date.
With first responders interacting daily with people who may be infected, following those measures helps protect professionals on the front lines, Lake said.
"When September 11 happened, first responders were on the front line then," she said. "In this pandemic, we're on the front line."
First responders know their jobs are risky and continue to go out on calls as the pandemic worsens, "not knowing if today's the day that they may come in contact with somebody that is actively Covid positive," Lake said.
The loss of Rocha, 60, and Davidson, 45, is going to make it even more difficult to keep up morale, Lake said. Their coronavirus deaths follow that of EMT Billy Birmingham, who died in April after contracting the virus, city officials said.
Seventy-three members of the Kansas City Fire Department are currently infected with Covid-19, Lake said, with 201 KCFD employees testing positive since the start of the pandemic.
"The biggest way we can honor people and the biggest way we can help prevent the spread of Covid is to do all the things that have been recommended: wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and really shortening and creating a pod of people that you can trust and be around," Lake said.
She also joined a chorus of officials and health experts imploring people not to gather for Thanksgiving.
"Save that for the date we can get out of this pandemic and that we can all come back come together as friends and family," she said.