CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mecklenburg Emergency Medical Services Agency (MEDIC) says they’re implementing multiple screening tools as cases of coronavirus continue to rise across the county.
Since January, the agency’s deputy director, Dr. Jonathan Studnek, says the agency has been implementing a screening tool in their communications center, which helps identify patients that have a high likelihood of having an emerging infectious disease.
This March, he says, the agency’s screening tools were expanded.
“When our crews receive word from the communications center that they may be in route to a patient that has coronavirus, we cancel our first responders so that we don’t expose people unnecessarily to the virus and then we have an approach and response protocol where we send an individual into the scene to do a quick assessment to determine if this patient meets criteria for coronavirus,” Dr. Studnek said.
He says patients who meet the criteria have a fever above 100.4 degrees and have one of the symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, or chills. He says patients are also evaluated on any travel or if they’ve had contact with a known COVID-19 positive patient.
If the patient meets the criteria for coronavirus, Dr. Studnek says both crew members wear all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and then take care of the patient. If the patient doesn’t meet the criteria, he says they manage the patient as they normally would.
“We’ve been seeing a big increase in the last week of field screens that require personal protective equipment,” he says.
But like much of the country, Dr. Studnek says they too are already seeing shortages.
“We have enough N95 masks to protect our people today, but we have a shortage of gowns, and we have a shortage in face shields; enough to protect our folks but that’s what’s going to run out first,” he says.
Dr. Studnek says it’s a daily effort to track exactly how much PPE they’re using.
But as paramedics start to see calls over coronavirus concerns rise, MEDIC says transports have dropped by roughly 40 per day since the county-wide stay-at-home order took effect.
They say they averaged roughly 321 transports a day between March 18 through March 26, 2019, but say this year between those same dates, they only transported an average of 280 a day.
“I think everybody’s a little tired, a little tense, a little bit nervous about what’s coming, but fortunate to have a little bit of a break in call volume so folks can move into the situation more slowly,” Dr. Studnek said.
MEDIC say no one at the agency has tested positive for the virus, but they say plans are in place should a staffing shortage occur.
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