In just a matter of months, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has swept through the United States and the world like a brushfire, with cases continuing to skyrocket in communities across America. Well over 100,000 people have lost their lives, surpassing the death toll of the Vietnam War.
And from the very first case, Georgia’s brave nurses, doctors and first responders have braced themselves for what has been an increasingly large and difficult challenge.
First responders are most exposed to COVID-19
Dr. James Augustine is the EMS Director of South Fulton and is just one among many concerned about the effects of the pandemic on the EMS teams he oversees. “Each and every individual that is in our EMS system we now have to take great care of,” he told reporters. Severe outbreaks put first responders at extreme risk for contracting the coronavirus and straining an already underprepared task force.
Like the nurses and doctors putting in countless hours during their shifts at hospitals, first responders can be overwhelmed by the number of calls if even one team member falls ill with COVID-19. This is especially true in Georgia, particularly rural counties, where there’s a shortage of ambulances — not to mention critical respirators and protective equipment.
Instituting new safety precautions
EMTs are already trained to assess the situation and surroundings before helping injured or ill individuals. In addition, first responder agencies are now equipping their teams with more protective gear, such as gloves and the proper masks.
Some EMS agencies, such as Puckett, Central and National EMS, are also equipping their crews with new software to help them identify clusters of patients exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus based on the number of calls made.
Not only that, but there are also special screenings that first responders are being taught to perform in order to question patients. These questions are designed to help teams quickly identify the symptoms and clue them in on any travel history that may have put the patient in contact with the virus. These screenings are also being implemented by police officers and firefighters.
Notifying hospital emergency rooms of an incoming case is another new essential that Gold Cross EMS has implemented amongst their first responders. EMTs must alert the emergency room to any symptoms of coronavirus the patient may be experiencing as they make their way there.
The Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service of Marietta now requires all of their medics to wear certain protective gear when answering calls including N-95 face masks, face-shield safety goggles, gloves, gowns and protective suits.
New precautions will hopefully decrease the likelihood of EMTs catching the virus
Taking new precautions is essential to not only keeping the public healthy, but first responders as well.
“What do you do if the crews and responders are sick? That’s what’s going to shut the system down when you can’t go to work because you’re sick,’’ Thomas Kamplain, owner of a Covington-based EMS training program, said. “Right now, there’s no vaccine and if you get it, you know you’re out of service for almost a month. You’re quarantined.”
Gerber & Holder Law remains committed to the Georgia community during these difficult times, including our hardworking and courageous first responders. If you or a loved one have been severely injured on the job, contact one of our experienced attorneys today.