(For Immediate Release, January 7, 2022)
ANNAPOLIS AND ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENTS SEEKS PUBLIC’S ASSISTANCE TO ALLEVIATE EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT OVERLOAD IN FACE OF COVID-19 SURGE
The Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Fire Departments are asking for the community’s to help alleviate the unprecedented strain that COVID-19 and its emerging variants have placed on the area’s emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, frontline responders, and hospitals.
COVID-19 infections continue to spread rapidly throughout Maryland. According to data from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, the COVID positivity rate in the county has reached 30.02% resulting in a 91.9% Intensive Care Unit occupancy rate.
COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm the region’s frontline health care providers and our health care system as a whole. Increased numbers of hospitalizations have led to longer patient wait times in the area’s emergency departments (ED), as well as a shortage of available staffed beds in hospitals. Healthcare facilities are being required to triage patients as they arrive to ensure the sickest receive treatment first. In some cases, ED patients with non-life-threatening emergencies may wait for extended periods, some exceeding 24 hours. Calling 9-1-1 for an ambulance does not guarantee faster care in the ED. Because local hospitals may be full, ambulances may be required to take patients to other regions. This takes EMS units out of our communities for extended periods, making them less available for urgent 9-1-1 calls such as heart attacks and vehicle accidents.
"Our members continue to work hard, serving through the challenges of the pandemic, but we need the community to do their part," said Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Trisha Wolford. "It is important to use our EMS services responsibly and only when necessary, and to expect long wait times once you arrive at the hospital," she continued.
Annapolis Fire Chief Douglas Remaley agrees with Chief Wolford. “This pandemic is not only affecting our community, it is taking it’s toll on all of our health care providers. Please review the below listed guidelines to help us meet our daily emergency medical challenges to better serve our community.”
In light of this unprecedented burden on EMS personnel, hospital staff, and our health system, the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Fire Departments are seeking the community’s assistance in the following ways:
- Avoid going to EDs for minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, and low-grade fevers. Instead, seek non-emergency care from primary care physicians or urgent care centers.
- Do not go to an ED just to obtain a COVID-19 test. Instead, go to an approved COVID-19 testing site (https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/symptoms-testing) or use a home test kit.
- Limit 9-1-1 EMS calls to possible life-threatening conditions such as:
- Chest pains or persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
- Blueish lips or face
- Severe pain that is new and doesn’t go away
- Traumatic injury
- Unconscious or altered mental status
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Allergic reaction with swelling and/or respiratory difficulty
- Diabetic emergencies
- Life-threatening mental health issues (e.g., suicidal)
- Childbirth (active labor or complications)
- Get vaccinated and/or receive the COVID-19 booster, and encourage others to do the same.
- Help limit COVID-19 transmission by socially distancing, washing hands regularly, and wearing a mask.
- Limit exposure to others, especially if there has been close contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or there are COVID-19 symptoms.
In cases of mild symptoms that are likely due to a viral illness, EMTs and Paramedics will evaluate the condition. If the severity of illness is mild, they may advise that home care, primary care follow-up, and outpatient testing are appropriate, as opposed to being taken to an ED.
By following these guidelines, our community can help decrease COVID-19 transmission and, in so doing, decrease the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. For more information about COVID-19 and related resources, visit https://www.aahealth.org/covid19/
“Our EMS system, hospitals and health care personnel are responding to these extraordinary circumstances and continue to meet the needs of our patients,” says Dr. Ted Delbridge, Executive Director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems, which coordinates the state’s EMS system. “EMS Clinicians are available when you truly need them, but please make sure there is a true emergency before calling 9-1-1 or going to the ED.”