EMTs and paramedics: The front line of the pandemic

Let’s honor them this EMS Week

Since that first 911 call from a Kirkland long-term care facility in March of 2020, Washington emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics have been putting their lives at risk to assist those with COVID-19. To honor their efforts, Governor Jay Inslee declared EMS Week May 16–22.

Emergency medical service (EMS) responders are on medicine’s “front lines” 24-hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, EMTs and paramedics provide assistance to those suffering with the most severe symptoms of COVID-19.

In Washington, many EMS responders are also firefighters, but a significant number of EMTs and paramedics work for hospital-based, county systems, or private ambulance services. Nearly 30 percent of EMS responders in our state are volunteers.

While EMS personnel continued to play an important role in responding to 911 calls, the pandemic presented some new challenges. It made entering a patient’s home and transporting them to hospitals, in enclosed spaces, riskier than ever before. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, COVID-19 is the leading cause of firefighter deaths so far this year.

EMS rises to the occasion

This week, we honor the EMTs and paramedics who have gone above and beyond to provide emergency medical care in Washington state during the pandemic.

Here are just some examples of the special care provided by local EMS in our state:

Aero Methow Rescue Service (Twisp)

Aero Methow Rescue Service is the only emergency medical provider for isolated areas in north central Washington. This volunteer service has donated nearly 1,000 hours coordinating and staffing vaccination clinics. They are even providing shots to residents in their homes and to high school students at their schools.

Spokane Fire Department (Spokane)

Paramedic and Medical Service Officer Lt. Kasey Austin served as the Medical Branch Leader for numerous drive-through vaccination clinics in Spokane. He was responsible for ensuring the security and stability of the vaccine, coordinating administration, and serving as a subject matter expert during the clinics.

Lake Chelan Health (Chelan)

A team from Lake Chelan Health traveled by boat and seaplane with doses of COVID-19 vaccine to reach some of the most remote communities in Washington state — Holden Village and the town of Stehekin.

Olympic Ambulance
(serving Clallam, Kitsap, Mason, Thurston, and Pierce Counties)

Olympic Ambulance used their dispatch center to focus on vulnerable populations such as the homeless who need assistance during the pandemic. They added bilingual staff to assist their Spanish speaking community members who are particularly vulnerable and may struggle to stay informed and navigate the system.

Yakima AMR (Yakima)

In October alone, Yakima AMR made 221 long-distance transports from Yakima and the Tri-Cities totaling nearly 63,000 road miles. Kudos to the dispatch center that coordinated with facilities and other AMR operations to ensure they were able to meet demand.

Now, more than ever, we recognize our EMS responders who support the health and well-being of our state and our nation, especially during this crisis. Please thank the EMS heroes in your community by wearing your mask (when appropriate), keeping your distance, washing your hands, and getting vaccinated. Reducing the spread of COVID-19 keeps your community — and your EMS responders — safe.

More information

Information in this blog changes rapidly. Sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.

Check the state’s COVID-19 website for up-to-date and reliable info at coronavirus.wa.gov.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 12 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit CovidVaccineWA.org and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.

Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state may be found at our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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From the Washington State Department of Health

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Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Department of Health

Protecting and improving the health of people in Washington State.

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