COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the Impact on EMS/TacMed Communities

COVID-19, commonly referred to as the Coronavirus, has recently swept across the world and is beginning to have a noticeable impact in the United States. That said, this article is meant to focus on the impact of the virus on the EMS, TacMed (Tactical Medicine), and medical communities at large and how it's impacting their ability to operate and serve their communities.

Dozens of firefighters, EMS personnel, and others in related fields across the country have been forced into quarantine due to possible and/or confirmed exposure to carriers of COVID-19 while on the job. With that in mind it is clear that COVID-19 in the United States is having a non-negligible affect on the medical professions ability to operate and safely do their jobs.

Reports from professionals in the field regarding impact of the virus on their work include that mutual aid for medical/emergency response services has greatly increased in impacted areas, with EOCs (Emergency Operations Centers) being set up to coordinate mutual aid.

Law enforcement in heavily impacted areas are minimizing responses to medical calls except for those involving severe injury or violent patients so as to lessen chances of exposure to the virus.

There are other smaller scale impacts, such as medical instructors or part time staff being called in for full time work, but the above two points are the most notable so far aside from the impact of equipment shortages on medical personnel.

On that note, I feel it needs saying that unless you are a professional in the medical field or work in a related field where you are at high risk for exposure that the bulk buying of respirators, N95 masks, and the like is harming those professionals and hampering their ability to carry out their jobs safely and effectively. The most effective way to ensure your own health and safety at this time is to follow CDC guidelines.

A 3M model 8511, N95 rated mask. This is an example of a common N95 particulate filter mask, of which there is now a shortage due to panic and bulk buying.

That said there are also CDC guidelines for EMS and other medical professionals. One important note is that due to the shortage of N95 masks and other equivalent masks/respirators that the CDC has loosened guidelines to state that face masks such as common surgical masks are an acceptable substitute at this time if nothing better is available. Of course, it is always recommended to wear all proper PPE when appropriate and available.

As it regards the impact this virus has on the communities served by LEO/EMS/FF/etc. there is so far little to note besides the aforementioned matter of law enforcement cutting down on responses to medical calls in affected areas, but this may change. Should large enough numbers of first responders, LEO, firefighters, etc. be infected and/or forced into quarantine there is potential for there to be a shortage of needed personnel on a level that can impact the community at large. This is yet another reason why it is important to support those directly involved in fighting the coronavirus by not sapping supply chains of needed equipment.

Again, there are guidelines in place from the medical community to protect yourself and others from exposure and these guidelines should be followed not just for your own sake but for the sake of others around you and the medical system at large. Slowing the rate of new infections is key to preventing an overload in hospitals and the medical system at large.

As always - stay safe, and stay informed. Be sure to follow the blog for updates and more information as the situation develops.

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