Source: North Jersey.com
The city’s emergency services dispatchers this week began asking some new questions when folks called in asking for an ambulance for someone with breathing problems or other symptoms associated with the coronavirus.
“We want to know if they traveled out of the country recently and where they went,” said deputy fire chief Matthew Hyman, who supervises Paterson’s emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
And if the callers’ responses point to a possible coronavirus case, the EMTs have been told to put on googles, breathing masks, gloves and protective gowns — an ensemble called full personal protective equipment, or PTE — before they go to the scene, Hyman said.
“Before this, they would wears gloves, that’s about it,” Hyman said. “I don’t think we’ve ever responded wearing full PTE before.”
As two cases of the virus has been diagnosed in northern New Jersey in recent days, the new policies for Paterson’s EMT are just one of the ways the state’s third most populous city is preparing for the potential epidemic.
Earlier in the week, Paterson Schools Superintendent Eileen Shafer canceled student trips to Italy and Japan, the district said. Shafer also directed district employees not to attend any conferences or training sessions outside New Jersey, said spokesman Paul Brubaker.
The district has distributed disinfectant wipes to all schools and cleaning staff have been directed to disinfect “touch points” like handrails, bathroom fixtures, doorknobs, water fountains and desks every night, Brubaker said.
Paterson’s school supervisors will be meeting on Monday to develop contingency plans in case schools need to provide home instruction and the district has set up a task force on coronavirus preparedness that will be meeting next Wednesday, Brubaker said.
“The district will ask teachers to begin preparing packets to help continue instruction in case schools need to close,” Brubaker said. “Those packets will be delivered to the home of a student who needs home instruction.”
The only hospital located in the city, St. Joseph’s University Medical Center, has activated its Emergency Preparedness team to monitor the escalating health concern over coronavirus, according to Dr. James Pruden, St. Joseph’s director of emergency preparedness.
St. Joseph’s has set up protocols and procedures to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including COVID-19 within the hospital, as well as to promptly identify and isolate patients who may have the virus, Pruden said.
“At St. Joseph’s, we routinely encounter patients with symptoms of respiratory illness,” Pruden said. “Our clinical teams are well-trained to use all of the tools and techniques available to effectively manage potential cases.”
Normally, Paterson ambulances heading to St. Joseph’s only contact the emergency room while on their way when they are transporting patients with life-threatening injuries or illnesses, Hyman said.
But under revised procedures, the EMTs will alert the emergency room if they are bringing in someone with a condition that could be related to the virus.
“We are being proactive and collaborating with the Department of Health, St Joe’s and our Administration to put a plan in place to respond to and minimize the spread of CV to first responders and constituents alike,” said Paterson Fire Chief Brian McDermott.