LOGAN – Cache County’s emergency medical services team came through the worst of the local coronavirus outbreak with flying colors, according to Logan Fire Chief Brad Hannig.
“The good news is that we were pretty consistently ahead of the curve,” Hannig told members of the governing board of the Cache County Emergency Medical Services Authority on May 19. “Our team did a good job of being proactive by staying up-to-date with developments about the disease. At times, we were days and even weeks ahead of other agencies across the state in responding to those issues.”
The Cache County EMS Authority provides emergency medical service and transportation to the local residents and visitors. With a membership of more than 300 EMS personnel, CCEMS provides advanced life support, paramedic transfer, rescue and ambulance services, as well as support to local first responder units.
“Our biggest concern during the coronavirus outbreak,” Hannig explained, “was that our operations could be crippled if any of our people contracted the disease and their co-workers had to be quarantined. Luckily, that never happened.”
But there were a couple of close calls, according to the fire chief. One of those came when an EMS supervisor began to display symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, but his test came back negative. Hannig said there was also a scare that briefly raised concerns about transmission of the virus from family members and health care workers, but those also proved to be false alarms.
“Thankfully, we had time to gather resources and we never really had the surge in coronavirus cases that we were expecting,” Hannig added. “Because of the other virus outbreaks we’ve had in the past, like the N1H1 and the swine flu, we had adequate supplies of protective equipment. The only thing that we didn’t have ample stocks of was N95 (masks). We never ran out of those items, but we didn’t have a supply that we really felt comfortable with for a while.”
The fire chief said that local EMS personnel had to modify their procedures as additional information about COVID-19 became available from state officials and the Bear River Health Department. The biggest change was that only one paramedic was sent into any residence to which an ambulance was dispatched. That lessened the risk of exposure to disease for EMS personnel and ensured that an entire ambulance crew would not have to undergo decontamination procedures.
Although Cache County officially moved to a Yellow/Low coronavirus risk level on May 15, Hannig emphasized that local EMS personnel are still treating any case that they respond to as a potential COVID-19 patient.
“Overall, I think we managed an unexpected situation well,” Hannig said. “Our biggest frustration during the emergency was lack of adequate communication with the (Bear River) Health District … I don’t think that we were ever entirely out of the loop, but we weren’t getting accurate information in a timely fashion …
“I realize that it’s difficult for Bear River to manage a pandemic like this. But emergency personnel need to stay informed because we’re actually responding to potential cases of the disease. So feedback on those cases was important and I never really felt confident that we were getting that kind of information quickly.
“We plan to work with the health department to try to resolve those issues in the future,” Hannig concluded.