‘Use 911 sparingly’: COVID-19-related calls overwhelming Florida county EMS, fire chief says

Southeast

Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital where Coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on August 16, 2021. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida county EMS and fire chief is asking families in the area to avoid using 911 for COVID-related calls.

“This is causing an ambulance shortage across the county and is causing long wait times for 911 callers. As Pasco Fire Chief. I’m asking every resident and visitor of Pasco County, and the Bay Area, to stay vigilant,” Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin explained.

According to Cassin, many hospitals in the area are at or over capacity, which means patients are waiting for hours in ambulances.

He wants the emergency number reserved for those experiencing shortness of breath, chest pains, serious trauma or life-threatening injuries.

“If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fever, sore throat or cough, contact your physician, urgent care center or the Department of Health for testing to help reduce the impact on area emergency departments,” Cassin said.

The fire chief also asked families to get vaccinated and do what they can to help slow the spread of the virus.

Florida reported a record of nearly 26,000 new cases last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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