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First responders, essential employees prepare to treat potential coronavirus patients

Posted at 5:29 PM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 18:43:40-04

CLEVELAND — As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide is rising, many employers are requiring employees to work from home.

But what about the employees on the front lines who are essential to public safety?

“Safety personnel come into contact with people with various levels of any kind of illnesses on a routine basis and we didn’t want to panic our officers, and definitely did not want to panic the public,” Cleveland Division of Police Chief Calvin Williams said.

The City of Cleveland Emergency Operations Center was activated Thursday morning and city officials have established a Joint Information Center.

The EOC will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays but city officials said they will adjust and increase those hours if necessary.

The Joint Information Center is essentially a panel of all city departments and its partners, including first responders and essential companies like Cleveland Public Power.

That group of officials will publish daily reports regarding local coronavirus developments at 1 and 5 p.m.

Thursday, The Cleveland Division of Emergency Medical Service announced employees have already operated using new protocols after a patient exhibiting coronavirus symptoms required treatment.

“Yesterday we received a call for a patient who had traveled, had a fever and had a dry cough,” Commander Chris Chapin said. “So we did enact our protocol for this situation.”

That patient was taken to an area hospital.

“We notified them prior to our arrival,” Chapin said. “They were ready to meet us and they took him into their special isolation room.”

EMS officials said the ambulance that patient was transported in was extensively disinfected afterward.

“We took the vehicle over to our de-con chamber where we used vaporized hydrogen peroxide to sterilize the entire truck,” Chapin said.

Additionally, Cleveland EMS has extra ambulances on standby for patients exhibiting coronavirus symptoms.

“The reason why we do that is so we’re not putting our front-line ambulance service for decontamination,” Deputy Commissioner David Miller said. “Which could take possibly six to eight hours to decontaminate the whole truck."

City officials are stressing preparedness and the importance of communication between all city and county departments.

Miller said coronavirus screening begins before first responders are dispatched to treat patients.

“Somebody calls 911 and if they ask or answer some of the questions and then the alarms start going off saying this may be a potential patient,” Miller said.

Cleveland firefighters and EMS workers are outfitted with advanced protective gear for treating potential COVID-19 patients.

“They’ll gown up in their infectious control gear,” Miller said. “We have masks and the hoods.”

The Cleveland Division of Police is taking similar precautions for its officers and has been preparing for more than a month for potential coronavirus cases in Northeast Ohio.

“All of our front-line officers are equipped with both protective masks and gloves,” Williams said, “And we’re in the process of ordering face shields as well as protective gowns.”

Williams wants to ensure those who have been ordered to self-quarantine that they will still be treated by first responders.

“We want to make sure that folks that are in certain situations know that they are going to be properly cared for,” Williams said. “That they’re not just going to be isolated on their own.”

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