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COVID-19: Make Infection Control a Priority

Familiarize your staff with the CDC’s interim guidance

(CDC graphic)

United States Fire Administration

Details about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) are changing rapidly and it’s easy to get information overload, but first responders need to be prepared to encounter cases. COVID-19 presents as a respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. It is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and spread via respiratory droplets with close contact, like the flu.

Guidance for EMS and PSAP (updated March 10, 2020)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published interim guidance on COVID-19 for all first responders. This includes the fire service, emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement and emergency management officials. If you anticipate close contact with persons with confirmed or possible COVID-19 in the course of your work, please read this guidance.

It recommends that 911 and emergency medical dispatch screen callers for signs, symptoms and risk factors of COVID-19. Dispatch should report potential COVID-19 calls to EMS before their arrival. EMS can evaluate individuals and transport them as a Person Under Investigation if necessary.

The interim guidance suggests specific modifications to EMS practices for patient assessment, personal protective equipment (PPE) use and aerosol-generating procedures (e.g., intubation, CPR, etc.). EMS employers can use the guidance to assess current practices, procedures and training and ensure they are up-to-date. This includes:

  • Donning and doffing PPE.
  • Task-specific training and education.
  • Use of respiratory devices.
  • Ensuring the availability of adequate supplies.
  • Decontamination.

Both PSAP and EMS departments responding to patients at ports of entry or airports that are CDC-designated quarantine stations should be in contact with the local CDC quarantine station to let them know of potential cases. Familiarize your staff with the CDC’s interim guidance and reach out to the quarantine station before you need them.