The novel coronavirus outbreak in New York City is taking a toll on the city's emergency medical service personnel, many of whom are unable to go home after working grueling double-shifts.
Uniformed EMS Officers President Vincent Variale tells Q104.3 New York's Jim Kerr and Shelli Sonstein that city EMS have faced a record-breaking number of calls for the past week-plus.
Officers are pushing through daily 16-hour shifts and using up the city's already short supply of medical equipment. The sheer volume of likely COVID-19 patients being transported to equally stressed hospitals also means EMS officers are under constant exposure to the pandemic virus.
"Our members are concerned, obviously, because nobody wants to take [this virus] home with them and bring it to their family," Variale says. "Many members are sleeping in their cars after working 16-17 hours. Some members who are testing positive are sleeping in their cars after dealing with the virus because they have nowhere else to go. They're not going to go home and give this to an elderly relative living there, or their wife and child. So they're going to sleep in their car. We tried to find locations of lodging, a hotel or somewhere, but unfortunately nobody is willing to take in a first responder who may be positive [for COVID-19]."
What's more, Variale says the FDNY had been complaining about being short-staffed and low on supplies since well before the coronavirus hit America.
Nowadays, shifts are so long and so frantic that many FDNY EMS don't even have time to get tested for COVID-19. Most assume they've been exposed, whether they've had symptoms or not.
A lack of priority testing for city medics, firefighters and police may only be aggravating the spread among the most vulnerable, Variale fears.
"Not only is it important to know for the members ... but if you're positive, we don't want you working and getting patients, who are greatly ill [with something else]," he noted. "I don't understand it. I don't know why it seems like everyone at every level has been unprepared for this. We're all paying the price for it."
As of Tuesday morning, New York City had more than 37,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 900 deaths blamed on the virus.
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