EMS details responses to COVID-19

Members of the Muskogee County EMS Region 4 Disaster Medical Response Team unload a truck Wednesday that holds a portable triage tent at Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee. The triage, which operated by Saint Francis Hospital Muskogee, will be set up in the Emergency Room area. The workers, from left, include Chris Tinsley, Jay Brown, Anthony Zinno and Colby Menie.

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service has taken multiple precautions to protect first responders from COVID-19, said Community Relations Coordinator Trish German.

"The main thing is hand hygiene. They should wash their hands before and after contact with patients, after handling materials, before and after they remove their gloves," German said. "Naturally, masks are very important if a patient has a cough or a possible respiratory problem — definitely put a surgical mask on that patient. If they suspect the patient might have COVID-19, they are definitely going to put an N95 mask on themselves."

MCEMS employees are often considered the "front line," German said, given their frequent interaction with potentially ill patients. It's not just whether or not they might catch the virus, but also the concerns surrounding societal shutdown, she added.

"Naturally everybody’s worried about it — looking at health care providers, we’re at the frontline of it. There’s a big possible chance we could catch it and take it back to our families, but you’ve also got to think about what happens now that school’s out," German said. "Are parents going to be able to find someone to watch their child while they come to work here? How are people going to eat, are people going to be able to get food with the restaurants' dining areas closed? There are a lot more concerns with employees other than just 'hey, we have an airborne, we’re taking airborne precautions.'"

German said following Centers for Disease Control guidelines, such as social distancing and good hygiene, can reduce the workload MCEMS has ahead of them.

"People should be concerned and take precautions and self-quarantine themselves or take care of themselves," German said. "If people get out, that’s more stress on our medical professionals — it’s more call volume, it’s more of a chance to catching this."

German said it was also crucial to limit 911 calls and emergency room visits to life-threatening situations.

"I’m not saying don’t go to the hospital or don’t call 911 — please call, and get the help that you need, but if it’s not emergency or non-life threatening, try to stay home," German said.

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