AUSTIN, Texas — Medics and other first responders are on the front lines of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic across the country.
And days after an Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) medic tested positive for the disease last week, KVUE's Pattrik Perez spoke with the president of the Austin EMS Association, Selena Xie, to find out how they're handling it all.
Below are some excerpts from their conversation.
On the changes the department is making:
"A lot of people are not even wearing their uniforms inside the actual station, the day room, their bedrooms. They're wearing undergarments, like our long-sleeved T-shirts and leggings or something. They're actually putting on their uniform outside in the bay. And then, we're not recommending anybody wear their uniforms home. We're asking them to launder their uniforms, either at the station, on their next shift or to bag it and take it home with them. As soon as you get home, you take a shower. Also, we're telling our folks on every single respiratory call, flu-like illness, anything, you should be wearing your full PPE [personal protective equipment]."
On how medics are doing working through the pandemic:
"Our folks are concerned. They're pretty scared, especially those who are taking care of old folks ... or have kids at home. There is a lot of fear out there, but I think all medics recognize that they have signed a sworn oath to do this job and they want to protect the city. Our jobs, in general, are dangerous, even outside of COVID-19. There's a whole lot of diseases that we could get that we should be protecting ourselves against from. It's hard not thinking about COVID-19 because it's so in our face."
On the Austin EMS Association's response to the positive COVID-19 test:
"Even though we were expecting it for sure within our community, it was a huge shock. The first thing I did was reach out to the medic as soon as I found out and made sure that they have everything that they need. The person is leaving the hotel soon that they were being quarantined [in], so they did make a full recovery and we're so, so glad."
On next steps for Austin medics:
"We were being really surgical in which patients we wear all of our PPE on, and I think that our medics are going to get used to wearing PPE on more calls now that community spread is more rampant. You'll see a lot more gowns and masks on everybody in public safety. Our department has done a good job in stockpiling N95s. So, we have N95 for quite a few months. Our shortest area of PPE is the gowns."
The Austin EMS Association has established a tax-deductible relief fund for medics who have become ill or have been quarantined because of COVID-19.
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