First responders are coping with a surge in call volumes, adding staff and working multiple shifts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Emergency Medical Services calls have increased by 10 percent to 5,773 calls, compared to 5,239 calls for the same time period in 2019, according to the Orange County Emergency Services. Some local EMS agencies reported a surge ranging from 10 to 30 percent.
Cornwall Volunteer Ambulance Corps is among the local agencies that have seen higher call volumes. Although the town has a quite low rate of confirmed cases of COVID-19, four new hires have been added to form an additional crew that covers a 12-hour shift during the day.
CVAC President Kristen Sebesta said responders are treating every case as a possible COVID-19 during the outbreak, which adds to the time spent between calls, from 1.5 to 3 hours to decontaminate an ambulance and restock protective gear. The corps has two ambulances. Normally only one crew is on call.
“We were seeing a little bit of a surge where we got two or three calls at a time. For the safety of our community, we want to be able to continue 24/7 services,” Sebesta said.
In New Windsor, the EMS that serves more than 30,000 people has seen a 30 percent surge in calls. With 598 cases confirmed, the town is among those hardest hit by the coronavirus.
Michael Bigg, chief of operations in New Windsor, said the calls are well managed because more volunteers have stepped up to take multiple shifts.
He is proud to say that none of the responders has tested positive for COVID-19 and credits the extra precautions, including frequent disinfections and strict sickness policy.
While it's still hard to get personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies, Peter Graziano, administrative assistant for Cornwall EMS, felt fortunate to get donations from the community.
“There is definitely still a shortage of PPE … but everyone is in a pretty good spirit,” Graziano said. “We are fortunate to have anything the community is willing to offer us.”