AUSTIN, Texas - Rising COVID-19 case numbers in Texas tax resources like Austin-Travis County EMS. Right now, medics are responding to more calls than they have in months.
After comparing ATCEMS calls week over week, they noticed there has been a huge jump.
"We noted an almost 77 percent increase in the COVID alerts that we were dealing with," said Capt. Darren Noak with ATCEMS.
A COVID- alert doesn't necessarily mean someone is infected with the virus, just that they have symptoms similar to it, like a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Either way, once ATCEMS is sent to the call, they must treat each patient as though they are COVID-19 positive.
"When we do have those higher likelihood of COVID cases, we are still doing our established procedures in decontaminating those ambulances," Noak said.
Decontaminating ambulances between each call means it takes longer to get to the next patient. In addition to that, responding medics often wait for several minutes prior to helping a possible COVID patient while call takers at the COVID Clinical Consult Line try to determine whether an ambulance is necessary and how many responders need to be involved.
"They take the time to make the responding ambulance, and/or fire, and/or police crews, aware of the situation and they might have them stage a distance from the call while they finish their triage," said Noak.
Between January and August, about one-third of all ATCEMS calls that were staged were related to COVID-19. Although Noak said so far, during this latest increase, it isn't causing significant delays.
"Our response times are within the set guidelines still currently as well," Noak said.
Part of the reason why is attributed to the purchase of two new ambulances following the adoption of the City of Austin's 2021 budget. One of those is already out on the road, the other will be early next year.