HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Paramedics with HEMSI are sounding the alarm after responding to a severe increase in COVID-19 calls.
The men and women on the front lines are giving one last plea before the holiday: stay separate and wear a mask.
The usual calls are still happening for Madison County paramedics. Heart attacks and car crashes are still paramedics’ responsibilities, but as the pandemic drags on, they’re stressed out from the increase in COVID-19 calls.
“We are now seeing the impact of Thanksgiving and it has been brutal to us,” said Paramedic Jean Humphrey.
Over the last few weeks, almost 40% of HEMSI calls have been for COVID related ailments. HEMSI Paramedic David Drake said not all patients are informing dispatch of their symptoms. “Very, very important that you are honest with the dispatchers and the paramedics and the EMTs when they are responding to you. It doesn’t change how we treat you, in fact it will help us treat you better.”
Humphrey believes she caught the virus while responding to a call. She is one of almost half of the HEMSI workforce who has been diagnosed with the virus. “A lot of us don’t let our family touch us when we come in. We undress in different areas and go straight into the shower away from them. There is always that fear there. We understand our responsibility is to protect everybody, ourselves, patients, and our families.”
Currently, 18 employees are out of rotation because they have the virus or have been exposed. With the holidays right around the corner, the team is anxious for what’s to come.
“Whether or not you believe the virus is as dangerous as it is, to be a member of society means we have responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is having compassion on other people. If you make other people feel safe by wearing a mask and staying away from them, I think that is our responsibility,” said Drake.
Over the weekend, the first round of HEMSI employees were vaccinated for the virus. A HEMSI spokesperson said more vaccines will be offered to their employees this weekend.