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NY Paramedic: ‘Our Most Immediate Concern is a Shortage of Equipment’

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Previous Corrections, EMS Workers Stress Need for Resources in COVID-19 Fight
NY Paramedic: ‘Our Most Immediate Concern is a Shortage of Equipment’
Jared Rosenberg

Editor’s note: The following is a story from the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, as told to AFSCME Now by a member in the outskirts of New York City:

“My name is Jared Rosenberg. I am a paramedic supervisor for the police department in the Town of Greenburgh, New York, in Westchester County. I’m also president of the [Emergency Medical Services] unit in Greenburgh for CSEA, AFSCME Local 1000.

In Greenburgh, our EMS unit is part of the police department. It’s a dual unit that consists of approximately 145 first responders, including police and 40 trained EMS workers covering an area of 42 square miles. We service roughly 84,000 residents.

My current role is to ensure that our workforce is trained and equipped to protect themselves and safely transport potential cases of COVID-19 to the hospital.

At this time, out of the 30 calls per day we are responding to, about 20% are COVID-related, with patients reporting high fever, coughs and shortness of breath.

Our most immediate concern is a shortage of equipment.

We need more personal protective equipment, including N-95 masks. We’ve resorted to collecting masks from the public. So far, over 195 masks and 1,000 surgical masks have been donated by residents. We’re grateful for what we have collected, but this is no way to prepare for an uptick in cases. 

We need these masks, and we need them now.

And we need the federal government to pay for these masks, because we can’t afford them at this rate. The price has risen from under $2 to about $6 per mask.

Additionally, we need more access to testing – not just for potentially infected members of the public, but for first responders who may have been exposed to the virus.

Right now, out of the 40 people we have trained to respond to COVID-related calls, five or six are sidelined in self-quarantine because they haven’t been able to get tested and cleared to return to work.

That is unacceptable. First responders deserve testing. It’s also a matter of public safety.

We cannot afford to have between 10% and 15% of our workforce unable to report to work for at least two weeks because they do not know if they’ve been exposed.

Everyone I work with is committed to this community. We also live here. We will fight this, but the sacrifice of people on the front lines deserves respect from Congress. 

We’ve got to get ahead of this where we can, keep people off the streets and protect workers.

We’re looking for leadership and action from Congress to help us here on the ground.”

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