Wilton fire chief: More social distancing, fewer EMS calls

WILTON — The coronavirus pandemic isn’t disrupting emergency medical services provided by the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps and Wilton Fire Department.

In fact, both groups are getting fewer calls than they usually do.

“Our call volume has not increased, in fact it’s down slightly from this same time last year,” said Brian McDermott, WVAC’s vice president.

“We haven’t seen any spike in calls. It’s a little suppressed because community members are confining in place,” said Fire Chief Geoffrey Herald.

In Connecticut, there have been 159 cases reported of COVID-19, contracted from the coronavirus. There have been 102 cases and three deaths in Fairfield County. The state’s first reported case was a Wilton resident who tested positive for the virus on Sunday, March 8.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice posted a message on March 19 on the town’s website stating overtime was high among the town’s emergency service groups. She said ambulance corps volunteers were working double shifts to ensure adequate coverage.

Herald said there has been no increase in overtime in the fire department.

But there has been an increase in overtime for the ambulance volunteers, which provides 911 emergency ambulance coverage for the town.

“The reason for the increase in overtime is because some members are doing double shifts, while other members have opted out of working their shifts at this time. Our members are volunteers, and we don’t want to put them in situations that make them feel unsafe,” McDermott said.

“To our knowledge, we have not yet transported any patient that has tested positive for the coronavirus. But before we go on a call, we ask if the patient has a cough, flu, difficulty breathing, or if they have been out of the country,” he said.

In those cases, responders wear full protection gear. They wear surgical masks when going to calls at nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in order to prevent spreading anything to the higher risk elderly population.

The department is also going through more protective gear — N95 respirator masks, goggles, and gloves than usual, McDermott said, but they do not have an equipment shortage at this time. If the virus spreads, and their calls increase, the situation could change, he said.

The state sent the ambulance corps a supply of N95 respirator masks with expired “use by” dates. “We will only use them to replace surgical masks if we run out of those. We will not use them in lieu of N95 masks,” McDermott said.

N95 masks are basically respirators that filter out certain particles from the air, and are more protective of the person wearing them, and need to fit properly.

Surgical masks are less protective of the wearer. They provide barrier protection against droplets including large respiratory particles. They are more protective of people coming into contact with the wearer.

“The town has provided us with thermometers for members to check their temperatures twice a day to make sure they are not exhibiting symptoms. We have also been going to meetings at the town’s Emergency Operations Center along with other officials. We have all been working to keep the community as safe as possible,” McDermott said.

Anyone wishing to donate supplies for the ambulance corps can do so at a drop box at 234 Danbury Road. They can use N95 masks, goggles, gloves, surgical gowns and surgical masks, preferably ones that have not expired and are in unopened packages.