COVID-19 is causing more emergency services in the D.C. area to alter how they conduct business and staff their departments.
For Scott Goldstein, fire chief for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, the omicron variant has heavily affected his department, as more people call out sick due to the coronavirus.
“As we wrap up December of 2021, omicron and the COVID-19 variants are spreading rapidly through Montgomery County,” Goldstein said.
MCFRS staffing is down over 9%, with over 130 career and volunteer personnel out sick due to COVID-19, according to a news release. Another 75 people are unable to work because of injuries or other health problems.
“That is impacting my workforce availability of career and volunteer personnel,” Goldstein said, adding that there are plans in place and, “We’re making service adjustments to address that.”
Among the adjustments the department is making:
- Adding recently graduated firefighters, all who came to MCFRS with firefighter and EMT experience, to full shifts, which will augment daily staffing.
- Reassigning firefighters and paramedics currently in training to their community service responsibilities.
- Creating an EMS “disposition officer” (EMS700) to ensure load balancing at the local emergency departments.
- Requesting volunteer partners to staff additional peak time transport units, adding additional transport capacity to the system.
- Prioritizing Advanced Life Support care delivery and firefighting water delivery across the county.
- Temporarily redeploying staff from one ladder truck (the Clarksburg Aerial Tower) and one heavy rescue unit (the Laytonsville Rescue Squad)
“All the adjustments that MCFRS has and will implement are designed to minimize the impact of staff reductions due to COVID-19 and enable the department to return to normal operations as staff becomes available,” Goldstein said.
In a letter to MCFRS staff, Goldstein said he requests each member of the department to get vaccinated and/or boosted to reduce the threat of severe COVID-19 symptoms, complete contact form if sick or exposed, and wear required personal protective equipment gear at all times.
Despite all the changes, Goldstein said the departments will still be able to transport patients to the hospital and stop the spread of fires as it always did. He asked for residents to “be aware of the challenges” rescue crews are facing.
MCFRS recommends the following suggestions for the public to help response times and emergency efforts:
- Use 911 for emergency situations only.
- Get vaccinated and/or boosted if eligible to reduce the threat of severe COVID-19 symptoms.
- Please be patient as hospitals are handling a lot of patients and are backed up.
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