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EMT’s add extra protocols for emergency calls

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - First-responders are on the front lines when it comes to helping people during tough times.

Health care providers like Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) have added extra protocols to how they respond to emergency calls.

Tri-State Ambulance staff said during a 911 call, additional questions are asked to screen people for possible COVID-19 infection.

If the 911-dispatcher is able to determine ahead of time if a patient has the COVID-19 virus, EMTs will respond wearing full protective equipment. The protective equipment includes wearing a surgical gown, a face mask, and eye protection.

Kent Stein, Operations Manager for Tri-State Ambulance, said currently when Tri-State EMTs arrive on the scene, they will ask the patient questions from the door.

"I want people to know that if they see us show up wearing extra gear, to not be scared," Stein said. "The mask EMTs will wear is just an added safety precaution we are taking for our field staff."

Stein said for serious cases where if the patient is non-responsive, they will enter the area and do their normal routine to properly take care of the patient.

If a patient is confirmed to have COVID-19, a special ambulance will be used to pick up that individual. The special ambulance will have less equipment inside so it can be more easily sanitized.

Stein said all Tri-State Ambulances have Plexiglas to isolate the driver compartment from the patient to minimize air movement. Stein also mentioned that Tri-State has its own internal screening procedures with employees by checking each other's temperature.

Christopher DeWinter, an EMT with Tri-State Ambulance, said he is proud to be able to help people during some of their darkest hours.

"No one calls 911 on their best day," Dewinter said. "Us EMTs need to always be ready to respond to situations that have spun out of control. I believe EMTs and health care providers are employees because we take of people when others can't."

To get answers for COVID-19 questions, call the La Crosse County Health Department's call center at 608-785-6240.

Lindsey Ford

Lindsey Ford is a multi-media journalist.

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