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County Emergency Services Preps for Pandemic

March 16th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Nationally there are over 4,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and with the death toll nearing 100 citizens, the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services and the Allegany County Health Department along with state agencies continue to monitor the situation, prepare, train and educate staff and the public.

“As we see the number grow nationally, in the tri-state area and in Washington D.C, Maryland and Virginia, we have to take immediate precautions to protect our staff and citizens in Allegany County,” Emergency Services Director James Pyles said. “We have made some changes in our emergency call taking procedures and response precautions.”

We want citizens that are calling 911 to know that it is vital they answer the questions asked by the emergency communication specialist, Pyles said.

“It may seem like care is being delayed by the few additional questions that have been added…it has not. Our second dispatcher is monitoring the call and can dispatch an ambulance or fire department as soon as enough information is provided,” Deputy Director Roger Bennett said. “State agencies requested that we add additional questions specifically related to travel, fever, cough and trouble breathing to our emergency medical dispatch protocols.”

Bennett continued that this information is relayed to responding units so they can take appropriate precautions when they arrive on the scene.

“When emergency units arrive on the scene, gloves have always been part of universal precautions to protect against bloodborne pathogens. Please, don’t be alarmed when pre-hospital clinicians arrive and they are using gloves, a surgical mask or face shield and gowns,” Pyles said. “These precautions are to protect the emergency responders.”

As we receive daily updates from other agencies involved, direction is provided to command staff, joint communications, emergency management and EMS operations, Bennett said.

“Our daily supervisors, both at the joint communications center and EMS operational lieutenants will monitor personnel for cough, flu-like symptoms. We encourage any employee that is sick, to stay home,” Bennett said. “It is a priority that we keep our communications specialist and EMS operation staff healthy and available to the public.”

Pyles continued that not all cases where COVID-19 is suspected will be confirmed cases.

“The virus cannot be confirmed without testing performed by a healthcare facility,” Pyles said. “Our personnel will use the highest level of protection in every suspected case to ensure that the patient, pre-hospital clinicians, bystanders and other healthcare providers are safeguarded against the spread of the virus.”

“We have had several individuals in Allegany County tested for COVID-19 with no confirmed cases,” Pyles said. “If and when a confirmed case develops in Allegany County, the public will be immediately notified.”

Health officials report that citizens can reduce their risk of infection by cleaning their hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water; cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or flexed elbow; and avoid close contact, approximately three feet with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Pyles said that health officials recommend patients that are symptomatic to contact their primary physicians or local urgent cares before just arriving. This allows the medical offices to provide the best direction to the patient, while maintaining the safety and protection of other patients and staff.

“We have taken the recommendation from the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, local medical direction and the county health department and cancelled all meetings and gathering with greater than 10 participants,” Pyles said. “We are aggressively working with the agencies mentioned above to help contain and minimize the spread of the virus.”


3 Responses to “County Emergency Services Preps for Pandemic”

  1. March 16, 2020 at 9:49 pm, jim said:

    A death toll of 100 in a nation of 350 million is not many.


  2. March 17, 2020 at 1:35 pm, Ash said:

    > That’s the thing about mass sickness, usually people don’t all drop dead at once. Would you prefer everyone wait to respond until we have to choose which person gets their turn on the ventilator?


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