Life in the Time of Coronavirus is a new GEN series where we are interviewing people across the country who have had their lives upended or who are experiencing the stress of the unknown.
An anonymous paramedic in New York City talks about hospitals’ supply shortages and the new risks he faces when responding to emergency calls.
I work as a paramedic in the 911 system in New York City. When you call 911 and you need paramedics, I come to your house. Right now, It feels like every day is a full year’s jump in adaptability and knowledge. I had two days off in the last week, and when I came back, it was almost like coming back to a completely different job. That requires a real shifting over of what you normally do.
As paramedics, we bring a lot of the emergency room to you, especially if you have a medical condition. We’ll come into your house with all the medications and the EKG and the breathing tubes in order to treat you. What I’ve been reading is that the more time you’re in a home that’s full of Covid-19, you’re really increasing your chances of getting infected. So I’ve been working faster and telling other people to work faster. Now, if I walk in, and you have shortness of breath or you’ve had a fever or a cough over the past few days, I move toward transporting you a lot faster. I do a lot less diagnostic work.
There is an absolute lack of coronavirus testing. This is pretty well covered in the newspapers, but it seems like that message is not getting out there — people really believe that there’s a lot of testing. What happens is if you develop a high fever and a cough and you go to the emergency room, the emergency room tells you, “Look, you probably have Covid. We can’t test you. Even if we can test you, it’s going to take three or four days. You need to isolate yourself. Here’s how you take care of yourself.” And then they send you home.