NEW BRITAIN - Not over-reacting but also not taking the situation too lightly is what first-responder leaders are doing as preparation and precaution for the coronavirus in New Britain.
“We’re very well into our preparation,” said New Britain EMS Chief Bruce Baxter Thursday morning.
The process starts with 911 call centers screening patients who are requesting medical help to see if they have any symptoms of the virus, Baxter said. The symptoms are similar to those of the flu.
If anyone is suspected of having the disease, EMS personnel are following CDC guidlines and are trained to wear gowns, eye masks, N95 masks, which have a higher rating for blocking smaller drops that may be carrying the virus than regular surgical masks. The patient may be asked to wear a mask as well.
Then, hospitals are notified, as they would be for anyone who might be transported by EMS crews, of the potential patient. After the patient is transported, the patient compartments of ambulances, including equipment inside them, are deep cleaned.
Last year, EMS had about 15,000 medical incidents to handle, with about 11,500 of them requiring transportation to a medical facility, Baxter said. That comes to about 42 calls a day, with 32 needing transport.
The precautions the EMS department is taking are being done through open collaboration with the fire and police departments, Baxter said.
Fire crews, which respond to medical incidents with EMS personnel, are carrying masks and gloves, and cleaning their equipment, as they usually do, Fire Chief Raul Ortiz said. The police are taking directions from the mayor and New Britain Health Department, Police Chief Chris Chute said.
The city partially opened its Emergency Operations Center Wednesday evening. Ortiz is overseeing that operation, with his deputy director of emergency management for portions of the day, he said. A full opening would mean additional city officials, including those from police and the Health Department, staffing the center 24/7.
“There is going to be an infection,” Ortiz said, saying it can’t be assumed the virus won’t be spreading to the city.
The EOC opening allows for real-time information from public health officials at the federal, state and local municipalities from across the state to be observed by the city, Ortiz said. That way if another municipality states a resident has tested positive for coronavirus, the city will know right away.
“We’ve dealt with this scare before,” said Baxter, referring to the previous H1N1 and Ebola viruses.
A way to help mitigate the spread of the disease, people should practice good hygiene by washing hands, using hand sanitizer and covering hands and mouths while coughing, Baxter said. And if people think they are sick they should stay home, he added.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.