Midstate EMS department prepares for coronavirus

Carlisle/West Shore

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — As the coronavirus continues to spread across the nation, a Midstate EMS department is already preparing. Nathan Harig, assistant chief of Cumberland Goodwill EMS says it’s only a matter of when the coronavirus reaches Pennsylvania.

“We’ve had conferences and meetings with the people who treated patient zero, the first one in the U.S. and we learned what they did and we’re on message boards and communicating with other professionals in the EMS field,” Harig said.

He says the virus is survivable but is quick to strip resources in the medical field, which is already an issue due to a shortage of first responders in the region.

“We’re really focused on protecting our providers because, if we have what happened in Washington state happen here, where 25 percent of their staff is quarantined, that’s going to just dissipate our EMS agency and we could lose up to half the ambulances. We could be put on the street just from not having enough crews,” Harig said.

The department has recently been reviewing prevention and infection control protocols.

“Right now a lot of our crews come to work dressed in uniform, that’s potentially going to change and going to get dressed at work so we can limit cross-contact and spread,” Harig said.

The department uses an Areoclave to clean the ambulance with a fine mist since the virus is spread through aerosolized droplets.

“That’s something that could become every single call, and we’re making sure that specialty care is taken,” Harig said. “It’s really an amp up process that we’re looking at depending on the situation and we’re basing it on if there’s a statewide disaster declared, that will trigger us to take some additional steps.”

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