Local first responders are discussing protocols for handling potential cases of COVID-19.
“While we always practice safe transportation and use personal protective equipment to protect against the spread of disease from patients and responders, our heightened awareness of COVID-19 had led to screening protocols,” said David Lowell, executive vice president and chief operations officer of Hunter’s Ambulance, which is based in Meriden.
Hunter’s staff started a protocol a few weeks ago that begins with dispatchers screening to determine if there is a COVID-19 risk. Once the information is obtained, the emergency medical personnel responding are notified and use appropriate measures, including personal protective equipment. Patients are questioned again by responders to determine the risk level, treated and transported to a hospital with any required precautionary measures, Lowell said.
Southington Police Lt. Stephen Elliott said town dispatchers are also using a protocol during medical calls, asking about flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms. The information is relayed to responders. If a risk is present, officers will wait for medical personnel to arrive.
Elliott said during non-medical calls, officers are maintaining a safe social distance, which they routinely do for safety purposes anyway.
The department is also fit-testing officers with protective masks. There is a limited supply at the moment and the department is hoping to get more, Elliott said.
Communication between departments locally and statewide has been critical for disseminating the latest news and recommendations during the coronavirus threat. Communication and coordination will continue until the threat is over, with the goal to limit the spread of the virus, Lowell said.
Wallingford Lt. Cheryl Bradley said the department is limiting fingerprinting hours and cleaning high-touch areas twice a day. She said the department has an adequate supply of personal protective gear that is ready to be deployed if the need arises. Bradley noted officers are also being encouraged to stay home if they feel ill and to maintain a social distance during calls.
Community policing officers will be assisting the Board of Education with meal distribution during the school closure and are making extra patrols by grocery stores and Walmart during the time of high shopping traffic, Bradley said.
Residents can help first responders by practicing good hygiene, Lowell said. Staff at Hunter’s are encouraged not to report to work if they are sick, and are currently using a fever as the distinguishing factor.
“We are continuing to adapt and evolve,” Lowell said.