Paramedic Joshua Hartman says emergency responders aren’t just treating those affected; they’re becoming patients themselves. That means an already overwhelmed 911 system loses the manpower needed to keep communities safe.
“I know we’ve heard a lot about the hospitals being stressed, but how do many people get to the hospital? Through the 911 system. So the 911 system is extremely stretched thin by people calling 911 when they are having these symptoms,” he said.
His concerns are echoed by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, who says to date nearly 90 police officers have been impacted by the coronavirus.
“We still have two that are in the hospital. We’ve had 16 that are quarantined, and we have 46 that are out of work and are showing symptoms. And then we have 24 additional that have been out of work and have since returned. So it definitely hurt our first responders,” Fulop said.
In an effort to keep first responders safe, the mayor has enforced a number of safety protocols that specifically address the environments they work in.
“A normal situation in the midnight shift would have two officers in a car. For social distancing, we’re still keeping two officers together, but there are two cars so they drive in a caravan. We started a call system on Monday, that if you want to file a police complaint you don’t have to do it in person,” the mayor said.
Hartman says the biggest challenge is providing the same critical protection for the community while struggling with fewer resources.
“So for example, there are masks that we would not have used in the past because they are expired but those expirations have essentially been elongated so that we are now allowed to use if we need to,” Harman said.
He says we all play an important part in helping to reduce exposure to first responders, so that they are available and prepared when someone in critical condition needs them.
“I think what is important to recognize and bring home to people is that there are numerous EMTs and paramedics who are in quarantine that reduces staff. I just ask that everyone stay at home and if they require medical services defined on the state department websites, they should seek that help and please don’t overwhelm the system,” he said.