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Ambulance calls down, but crews are ready

Emergency service workers continue to meet the call to duty even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That includes the Lehighton Ambulance Association, which is still assisting the public, according to Casey Rich, AEMT/Public Outreach.

“We’re still taking every precaution,” Rich said. “We’re working with our local hospitals to help stop the spread.”

Kathy Rooney, volunteer paramedic, said that despite the pandemic, it hasn’t been all that big of an adjustment in terms of keeping things clean.

“For us, it’s like standard operating procedure,” Rooney said. “We decontaminate the building; as far as cleaning ambulances, we always clean.”

However, Rich said one noticeable trend has been a downtick in the number of calls the ambulance has received.

“We’ve had a dip in our 911 calls; they’re staying at home,” he said. “People are calling less (since the quarantine).”

Rich said there have been no policy changes regarding the patients themselves traveling in the ambulance.

The only difference, he said, is when it comes to family members in the ambulances.

Rich said that before the temporary policy change, it was solely up to the crew’s discretion regarding who can ride along with the patient to the hospital.

“For the vast majority of cases, any patient whom had a loved one or family member that wanted to accompany the patient, we would allow them to do that,” he said. “Now that this new policy has been put into place, and COVID-19 is in full swing, we are no longer allowing anyone at all into the ambulance, unless it is a parent with a child, or caregiver for someone with special needs.”

In the meantime, Rich said the organization is “doing everything we can to protect ourselves, our patients, and the communities we serve. One thing I have been hearing from our crews is that people are becoming worried when they see Lehighton Ambulance show up and the crews are getting out of the ambulance with eye protection, face masks, gloves, and in some cases gowns.

“If our crews are seen wearing any of these, please do not worry; they are merely wearing it for their own protection, and the protection of everyone they may come into contact with. At the end of the day, our crews have to go home to their families as well, and do not want to spread the virus to them.”

Polk Township Volunteer Fire Company posted the following message on its Facebook page Monday night:

“Members will be arriving to all non-fire emergencies wearing a different type of mask. This is for our protection as well as yours. We are taking additional safety precautions and we are committed to serving our community.

Some of the things we are doing include: disinfecting the cabs of the trucks after calls, staging members and limiting patient exposure if possible, and wearing masks, safety glasses, disposable gloves on every call.

If you are ill and call 911, please let the dispatcher know. No matter what we will be responding to all calls!”

Be safe, stay home, and wash your hands.”

Lehighton Ambulance Association continues to respond to calls even amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pictured outside their headquarters are, from left, Casey Rich, AEMT/Public Outreach, Kathy Rooney, volunteer paramedic/ board of directors member, and Bennett Heyman, paramedic. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS