First responder opens up on emotional toll of coronavirus from front lines: ‘It hasn’t gotten easier’

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A spokesman for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics warned Sunday that it’s been tough for first responders to adjust to their new way of life on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus crisis.

“It hasn’t really gotten easier yet,” the group’s national representative Frank Wagner told Fox News’ Arthel Neville on “America’s News HQ.” “The call volume is up 200, 300 percent. You have to assume that everyone has it. You go to a facility or nursing home, you to take extra precautions in addition to what we are normally doing.”

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Asked whether he had the necessary protective equipment to treat the influx of highly contagious patients, Wagner said his supply was “dwindling” slowly.

“I just don’t understand why we don’t have a six-month or a year-supply stockpile for an emergency like this,” he said. “We are conserving, we’re rationing the equipment. Everyone does have equipment but it’s not what we should have, and once again, we got caught with our pants down.”

He continued, “We weren’t prepared for this. Everyone didn’t think it was going to be this bad. It is bad. Hopefully, we are almost to the worst part and it gets better from here on in… but I keep saying that every week. Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow it’s going to be better. Hopefully, in the next week or two, we will be better, but there’s no reason why we’re not prepared for this.”

Wagner said many emergency responders have been forced to re-use personal protective equipment [PPE].

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“The PPE we are using, this is single-use… it’s not designed to be reused. If we re-used this PPE three months ago, they’d want to fire us.,” he said. “Health-care workers, if you went into one room with a mask on and left the room and treated another patient with the same set of gloves or masks or gown, they’d be fired.”

He reiterated, “I know times are tough. You have to do what you do to get by, but none of this equipment was designed to be single-use.”

Acknowledging the psychological impact the pandemic has had on paramedics and first responders, Wagner said they’ve done their best to be there for each other as they process the horrors of the deadly virus.

“We spend time with each other and talk to each other. We have a counselor on-site at a lot of locations… and we can talk to him whenever we want privately, and try to grab a bite together, do what we have to do and still maintain social distancing while this is all happening,” he shared.

Wagner said his team faced “a couple of DOAs [dead on arrival] per shift — every couple of hours, and they just keep coming.”

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He added, “you have the patients’ families [who] are getting upset because they can’t go to the hospital with them and they can’t go to the hospital that they want to go to.”

Wagner also said his heart went out to patients’ relatives. “It’s frustrating for everybody.”

Fox News’ Arthel Neville contributed to this report.

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