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Bellmore-Merrick EMS institutes new policies to address outbreak

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Bellmore-Merrick’s Emergency Medical Service instituted two new policies for its members to follow in an effort to stay safe from coronavirus. According to Assistant Chief Scott Resnik, the first policy helps prevent disease exposure on ambulance calls, and the second helps block exposure within the department.

“Our world’s all about preparedness, and these policies are about over-preparedness,” Resnik said. “We at Bellmore-Merrick are confident that we are well-prepared for this.”

The infection-control policy aims to limit the number of personnel entering a scene on certain types of aided calls, such as sick calls, general malaise calls and respiratory distress calls, Resnik said. It ensures that only “essential personnel” are on site.

Additionally, when Bellmore-Merrick EMS is dispatched to a scene, the dispatcher will alert responders if the patient they are aiding presents certain “risk factors,” Resnik said, including if he or she had recently traveled or had possible contact with someone who may have been infected with or exposed to coronavirus. 

Under a “no-presence” policy, EMS members showing any signs of illness — such as a fever of 100 degrees or higher, cough or respiratory distress — are ordered not to report for duty until they have a definitive diagnosis. “We’re eliminating anyone from the department with anything as mild as a dry cough,” Resnik said.

The department has also instituted a social-distancing policy to eliminate all non-essential meetings and trainings, Resnik said, adding that squad members would use a virtual training system. Additionally, the EMS suspended its junior squad program for children ages 14 to 17 until further notice.

Bellmore-Merrick EMS has four advanced life-support ambulances equipped with the “latest” life-saving equipment and medication. Also on board are video-assisted laryngoscopes, both for children and adults, which use cameras to intubate a patient with a narrow, swelling or mucus-inflamed airway. The department also has incident response vehicles (for rehabilitation at the scene of a major incident), a field command center (for use as a first-aid station) and three first-responder vehicles.

Resnik said the EMS has been in regular communication with Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management to stay updated on the situation. County officials also disseminated information to squad members about “potential resource allocation” in the event that they are recruited to assist in resource distribution. Bellmore-Merrick has also been in contact with surrounding agencies to share their procedures and policies with other first-responder units.

The most important thing for residents to remember, Resnik said, is to minimize their risk of exposure. “Be diligent and honest of anything [you] may be seeing, feeling or hearing, and don’t be afraid to make the phone call to us for assistance,” he said. 

The plan for prevention

Earlier this month, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder also announced measures to protect police officers and medics when they respond to cases involving people who display coronavirus symptoms. The protective equipment includes respirator masks, eye shields, and medical gloves and gowns.

Police medic Kris Kalendar said the equipment acts as a “barrier” to protect first-responders from “any fluids” from a patient if they cough or sneeze. He added that 911 dispatchers have been directed to notify ambulance workers responding to aided cases if the individual in distress is exhibits coronavirus symptoms.

Coronavirus continues to spread

Nearly 10 people have died in New York because of coronavirus, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The first was an 82-year-old woman in Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn who had emphysema. The second was a man, 65, from the Village of Suffern in Rockland County. The third was a 79-year-old unidentified woman with multiple underlying medical conditions.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Nassau rose to more than 130 by press time Tuesday. Hundreds of people across Long Island are under mandatory quarantine. Across New York state, there were more than 1,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus by press time Tuesday.