Tommy Berges has seen firsthand how the coronavirus pandemic has caused delays in essential emergency services. The veteran paramedic and firefighter out of Washtenaw County, Michigan said the outbreak has extended emergency response times from the outset.
"COVID has really changed the entire fire and EMS services overall," Berges told Cheddar. "These time delays actually start when someone calls 9-1-1."
Emergency responders are screening callers to see if they have COVID-19, a necessary precaution that nonetheless adds crucial seconds to EMS response time.
"They're going to ask you questions. That takes additional time," Berges said. "If you do screen positive, it's very likely that information will get to us and that requires us to put on additional PPE, and that takes time. While it seems like seconds, in any emergency situation where time is of the essence, this all adds up."
Berges advises people to have a plan for emergency situations, given the delayed response time. For those who have dealt with opioid abuse in the past, in particular, he recommends keeping Naloxone, an anti-narcotic drug, on hand for emergencies.
He recounted one instance in which a man, who had been receiving medically-assisted doses of opioids, accidentally overdosed when he misunderstood the directions provided by his doctors. They had given him additional pills so that he could social distance.
"Have a plan. Stop and think about what you can do," he said.