Sussex County EMS adapting amidst COVID-19

SUSSEX CO., Del. – As the number of positive cases of coronavirus continues to rise in Delaware, EMS officials in the southern part of the state say they’re taking extra precautions and want the public to know that they’re prepared.

Sussex County EMS says their call volume is actually down across the board but they’re seeing an increase in the number of people calling with symptoms related to COVID-19 including fever, cough and shortness of breath. Those are symptoms that officials say may impact Sussex County residents more than others because they have a large retirement population.

“We kind of take the stance that you can’t be too careful in this case,” says Robbie Murray, the deputy director of administration for Sussex County EMS. “Certainly we are at a new level of PPE. We have decided to take a proactive approach so that every call our paramedics go on they are donning the appropriate PPE.”

County officials want the public to know it may take paramedics a minute longer before going into a patient’s home because they’re now putting masks and gowns on for every call. “This way we don’t get into someone’s house get halfway into our assessment and then wish we would’ve had that PPE on,” says Murray.

The county also has plans to address any staffing issues that may come up if paramedics need to call out sick. “Fire chiefs we’ve developed a couple different operational plans that would allow us to maintain our service in the event that we we start to see that absenteeism,” says Murray.

But staff are practicing social distancing to reduce the possibility of anyone getting sick. “We usually respond to calls with two paramedics in the unit. Part of this social distancing we have tried to put a little more separation between our staff so that we are now running with a single paramedic in each unit so that means two paramedics responding to the incident until one of them is canceled,” says Murray.

Their overall message to the public is: listen to your gut feeling because you know your body best. “Emergencies still happen in one of the things we don’t want to do is we don’t want to have people scared that they refuse to call 911 or they don’t want to call 911 until it’s too late,” says Murray.

EMS officials say they’re also decontaminating their equipment even more often than usual. Some fire companies have tools to spray disinfectant on the inside of ambulances to clean hard to reach areas.

Sussex County EMS tells us they started planning for COVID-19 cases about a month ago and consulted the best practices from other places across the country.

Categories: Coronavirus, Delaware, Local News