EMS crews cope with COVID-19 waves

[Fox 9 News, December 09, 2020] For the last several weeks, 25 ambulances provided by FEMA have helped deal with the crush of COVID-19 cases in the Twin Cities metro that pushed emergency crews to the limit.

With that surge subsiding, but numbers still high, FOX 9 got an inside look to see how ambulance crews are coping.

"I wish someone could tell us with certainty if the storm was over, but I don’t think we can and we just need to be prepared," said Dr. Andrew Stevens, Allina Health EMS Chief.

The surge in COVID calls began in late October and by mid-November, ambulance runs were through the roof both from 911 and transfer runs taking patients from hospitals to hospital, a process called load leveling.

KSTP-TV News also reported on the same story. Watch it here.

So here's one sign that the COVID surge is easing. The 25 ambulances provided by FEMA a few weeks ago are scaling back. Some of those crews are now moving on.

And they helped with a crush of cases that pushed emergency crews to the limit. Today, Fox 9's Rob Olson rode along with Allina Health EMS to hear about how they've managed, what they've seen, and their thoughts on what is yet to come.

I wish someone could tell us with certainty if the storm was over. But I don't think we can. And we just need to be prepared.

Dr. Andrew Stevens spends part of his time working in the ER. The other part, he's out here focused on the field.

It was reported someone that already has a history of bad respiratory disease that is exhibiting signs of COVID.

He's the chief of Allina Health's emergency medical service, supervising ambulance crews, and helping them out where he can.

It's possible they're on a ventilator already. So that puts it at risk for COVID being aerosolized on scene.

The surge in COVID calls began in late October. And by mid-November, ambulance runs were through the roof, both 911 and the transfer runs, which is taking patients from hospital to hospital, called load leveling.

We've never had this level of insanity, I guess you could say.

Lou Echeverria coordinates those transfers inside Allina's 911 dispatch center. He calls it a constant chess game, which has slowed. But he's not expecting that to last.

But it's just such a wave of going up and down that I'm expecting within, maybe the next week, week and a half, our numbers are really going to shoot up.

That all got better recently. I think the FEMA teams helped. But they're leaving today. So we'll see how that plays out in the future here.

Joshua Turek and Rachel Carson are EMTs who make those transfer runs. And what has struck them the hardest in this and what they feel is so overlooked--

So the number of mental health patients has increased quite a bit.

--the mental health victims of COVID isolation, especially the kids who've tried to kill themselves.

One of my coworkers picked up a kid as young as eight. 12-year-olds, 14-year-olds, we transport them regularly.

The statistics do show that both 911 runs and the transfers have dropped since Thanksgiving, that the surge is done. But what ambulance crews are experiencing don't always reflect that.

Within the last couple weeks, actually, is the most I've seen. Usually, it's one or two cases a day. Now it's three or four.

Hoping they may have seen the worst, but knowing that's impossible to predict.

It leaves an uncertainty is that just like waves on a levee is that we're full. The levee's full. And you don't know when the next wave is coming, how big it is.

Rob Olson, Fox 9.

Posted on December 10, 2020 in coronavirusInfectious DiseaseAllina Health EMS

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