HILLSIDE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The shortage of COVD-19 testing has kept many first responders from returning to work after being quarantined.

CBS2’s Jessica Layton has a look at one local firefighter’s quest to get back on the job.

It’s the tiny finger prick that could be the big game changer in getting Americans back to work, especially those on the front lines who were pushed to the sidelines and into quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I like to help people and right now I feel helpless. I haven’t been at work in almost two weeks now,” firefighter Franklin Ferreira said Tuesday.

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Ferreira, a nine-year veteran of the Hillside Fire Department and EMT, has felt fine, but has been off the job for days since his partner got sick. As a result, Ferreira was told he had to stay home in case he also developed symptoms.

“Just the uncertainly of whether I was exposed at the same time as him,” Ferreira said.

MORECoronavirus Update: N.J. City Begins ‘Rapid Antibody COVID-19’ Testing On First Responders

Dr. Mark Merlin estimates up to 30% of first responders in New Jersey are in isolation right now due to pandemic protocols, putting an enormous strain on the squads.

“They have to work double shifts. They have to work longer hours,” Merlin said.

As the founder of MD1, a nonprofit group of physicians that helps EMTs on emergency calls, Merlin finally started getting and administering the rapid tests. They show not only if a person is infected, but if they’ve recovered and developed antibodies. Within minutes, Ferreira, a husband and father of two, found out he’s negative.

“I was happy, but at the same time I was hoping I had antibodies to it,” Ferreira said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Merlin said the shortage of these types of tests is crippling America’s ability to get back on track, adding if he had 1,000 tests right now he could probably get hundreds of first responders approval to go back to work in the 20 minutes it takes for the results to come back.

“We need more. We need them universally available,” Merlin said.

As for Ferreira, he’s clear to gear up and get back to saving people immediately. Sadly, he’s almost guaranteed to be exposed again.

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