Six Susquehanna Valley EMS providers were exposed to two Lancaster County patients who later tested positive for COVID-19, according to the EMS head.
All six are under home quarantine.
In a telephone news conference Friday evening, Chief Michael Fitzgibbons said he was advised earlier in the morning of positive diagnoses for the patients, who were served by a total of six providers in two separate calls on March 21 and March 24 unrelated to COVID-19.
One call was for an elderly woman who had fallen, and the other call was a sick person who was not showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Fitzgibbons said because the calls were not COVID-19 related, the providers did not wear all the personal protective equipment, or PPE — such as masks, gloves and N95 respirators — used to handle potential COVID-19 patients.
Two providers will be tested for the novel coronavirus “shortly” because one was showing symptoms and another has underlying conditions. Two of the six providers were on both dispatches.
The other four providers will be in self-quarantine for 14 days, Fitzgibbons said, but could be back on the job after seven days if a staffing shortage occurs. Four of the six exposed providers were out on dispatches Friday when Fitzgibbons got news of the infected patients.
The ambulances for the two calls underwent a “total decontamination,” Fitzgibbons said, and from now on providers will wear the personal protective equipment on all dispatch calls.
Fitzgibbons said he heard of supply shortages, which guided his initial policy of using PPE only on calls related to COVID-19.
“The guidance that we were getting was telling that we should try to conserve as much as possible because in Lancaster ... it was just starting and we didn’t know how it was going to ramp up.”
Fitzgibbons urged those suspecting COVID-19 or exhibiting symptoms to tell dispatchers.
“This isn’t a hoax ... this is serious stuff,” he said. “If you need to call 911, if you’re having symptoms, please inform the dispatcher.”