Local first responders rolling out coronavirus response plans

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LAKEWOOD, Colo (KDVR) — As the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow in Colorado, first responders across the Front Range are adjusting their response plans. 

West Metro Fire Rescue is rolling out a new response protocol which involves first responders staging outside the home of potential COVID-19 patients.

“We’re not going to go right into the house,” said Lt. Reed Norwood. “We’re going to hang out outside, we’re going to try to make telephone contact with that patient, and go through some more questioning to determine what their true symptoms are.”

Norwood says unlike a traditional 911 response, only one paramedic will enter the home if they believe coronavirus is likely. 

All first responders will wear gloves, eye protection, a mask and a gown, all of which will be discarded after use. 

“Our goal is actually to assess and treat in the home if we can,” Norwood said. “While we have crews inside assessing and treating them, there’s going to be other crews outside prepping this ambulance to transport this patient.” 

Norwood says West Metro is also prepared to isolate patients while en route to the hospital. 

“We’re going to put up a barrier using plastic and tape, to isolate the patient compartment area from the front of the cab,” he said.

At South Metro Fire Rescue, spokesman Eric Hurst says they’re considering similar measures. 

“If there is a suspicion that someone is sick — that they may have the coronavirus — that’s going to prompt our first responders to add a little extra caution,” said Hurst. 

Items like gloves and masks have been in high demand across the country, and Hurst says there is growing concern of a shortage if the virus continues to spread. 

“Down the road, could we find that we need more equipment and there’s a shortage? Absolutely. And I think everyone around the country is going to be faced with that if it ends up being the worst case scenario,” he said.

Both departments say it’s important to note most healthy people who contract COVID-19 will not need emergency medical attention. They’re asking people to self-quarantine if they aren’t in immediate danger. 

“If we ourselves are in quarantine, it’s not going to do us any good,” said Norwood. “So that’s why we’re taking those precautions.”

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