Westchester EMTs fear strain on staff will worsen as COVID-19 cases rise again
Westchester EMTs say if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so will the strain on ambulance employees.
Local emergency medical technicians are constantly reminded of the dire circumstances under the pandemic. Westchester County now has over 6,600 active cases.
EMTs at Empress EMS are seeing the harrowing effects firsthand.
"Seeing all that death, all that illness, it gets to you after a while, but you take a break and you try to come back as refreshed as you can so you can help the next one," says AJ Briones, of Empress EMS. "Over the past week or so, we've had about 150 highly suspicious or confirmed COVID cases, which two months ago, we were getting maybe three or four a week."
The concern lies along with smaller departments that might not have the resources to accommodate quick responses while trying to meet surging demand. The American Ambulance Association is sounding the alarm for emergency federal funds to keep operations afloat.
Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been changes to respond more effectively at Empress EMS.
"What used to take three hours, now we have different chemicals and different techniques that decreased that amount of time," says Briones.
Another change is that when dialing for help, a dispatcher will ask coronavirus-related questions over the phone. EMTs on the scene then repeat that questionnaire to ensure their safety and improve early treatment.
Right now, Empress EMS has a steady staff and stockpile of PPE. Staff says their main concern is that cases will continue to rise and bring Westchester back to where it was nine months ago.