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Surge in COVID-19 cases leaves Cleveland EMS overwhelmed with calls, down personnel

Cleveland EMS
Posted at 5:01 PM, Dec 23, 2021

CLEVELAND — Amid a surge in new coronavirus cases and nearly two dozen EMS members on restricted duty after recently testing positive, Cleveland City Council President-elect Blaine Griffin (Ward 6) said the city remains in "crisis mode." Griffin said it is imperative that residents do their part to help relieve the growing pressure on EMS and hospital personnel.

At the start of the week, city officials announced that 20 members of the Division of EMS had been placed on restricted duty after testing positive for COVID-19. Simultaneously, the division was reporting an increase in call volume. Over the past 6 weeks, the incidence rate of COVID-19 in Cleveland had increased 420% with the lion’s share of the increase occurring in the past two weeks.

Between Nov. 8 and Dec. 20, there had been more than 14,000 new COVID cases in Cleveland. For reference, the Cleveland Department of Public Health didn’t have a cumulative total of cases exceed 14,211 until Dec. 10, 2020.

“We are in crisis mode. I won’t sugar coat it. This was something that I don’t think a lot of people expected. A lot of people thought we were over the pandemic and now this new variant has wreaked havoc on our community,” Griffin said. “They’ve never seen the health system as stressed as they see it now. That’s from the first responders to the nurses to the doctors and the ER staff and personnel. People say they’ve never seen it this stressed.”

The overwhelmed and overworked medical community in Cuyahoga County, including paramedics, EMTs, doctors, nurses and support staff, have pleaded with the public repeatedly over the past two weeks as the number of cases began surging and hospital intensive care units began filling up.

Compounding the problem, officials said, is the number of calls into 911 for non-emergencies.

“Please call EMS if you have an emergency. But if you just have minor symptoms or something or you just call EMS for those minor things, then it really creates a problem for our staff,” Griffin said. “We know the recipe for how we need to get out of this. We just need to get back to the basics so that we can alleviate the pressure that our safety forces are experiencing right now.”

Griffin said he has been reaching out to bar and nightclub owners, asking them to encourage the basic measures that, at this point, every resident should be accustomed to, including social distancing, mask-wearing, vigilant hand washing and getting vaccinated and boosted.

“The gravity of this moment does not escape any of us: it’s a real tough time for everyone. That’s the reason I’m asking everyone in the public to get vaccinated. Get tested. Try to avoid large crowds right now,” Griffin said. “We need to get back to the basics so that we can alleviate the pressure that our safety forces are feeling right now. They are really feeling it. Nobody likes mandates. Nobody likes to be told to stay at home. Nobody likes to be told to wear a mask. Everybody wants to [get through this] so let’s make sure we act responsibly right now.”