COVID-19

COVID keeps surging. Are EMS providers at the breaking point?

Kimberly Adams Dec 3, 2020
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A worker decontaminates an ambulance. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

COVID keeps surging. Are EMS providers at the breaking point?

Kimberly Adams Dec 3, 2020
Heard on:
A worker decontaminates an ambulance. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

While Congress continues to negotiate over what will hopefully be some kind of deal on more stimulus relief, the health care system is straining under the onslaught of new COVID-19 cases.

Hospitals are filling up, and doctors and nurses are going beyond their limits. However, other parts of the system are also at the brink, starting with the people who show up if you do get really sick.

The crush of COVID-19-related calls to 911 EMS in Milton, Georgia, has put additional pressure on the fire department staff and finances, due to spending on personal protective equipment, decontamination machines and a lot of overtime.

“Once you start losing those people to quarantine or worse yet to being sick, then that can have an impact on a ambulance company or fire department’s ability to provide that essential first step,” said Matt Marietta, emergency manager and deputy fire chief in Milton.

Ambulance companies are feeling the pain, and asking for more federal aid.

“What you’re seeing is a system that is being stretched and stretched and stretched to the point where the rubber band could break,” said Maria Bianchi, CEO of the American Ambulance Association.

A lot of that stretching has to do with what’s happening at hospitals. Dr. Sam Bagchi, chief clinical officer at Christus Health in Texas, said usually overcrowding means moving a patient nearby.

“And really, over the last several weeks, you know, we’ve had to coordinate those more so across regions, and even across state lines,” he said.

That’s happening all over the country.

“If there’s no available beds, those ambulances are stuck there for four, five, sometimes six hours. And that’s what we’ve seen over the past week,” said Eric Sherwin, a spokesman for the San Bernardino County Fire Department in California.

Now, in San Bernardino, they’re no longer sending out an ambulance every time someone calls 911, although they still send paramedics to those who are sick, reserving their ambulances for life-threatening emergencies.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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