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EMS grapples with an increase in all types of 911 calls as it also sees more COVID cases

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:08 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 19, 2021 at 5:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With Hawaii’s COVID lockdown lifted, Honolulu EMS says it’s responding to more 911 calls now than before the pandemic.

The emergencies run the gamut, and include an increase in COVID cases.

“The crews are still super busy,” said Honolulu EMS Field Operations Supervisor Frank Gregorio. “There’s an uptick in calls now.”

For EMS crews, it’s beginning to seem like deja vu.

Earlier this summer, crews would go days without a call for a COVID patient. Now, transporting people who have already tested positive for the virus is becoming a routine occurrence.

On Oahu, the number of people hospitalized with COVID has doubled in the past month. Records show on June 15 there were a total of 19 patients. As of Monday, there were 43.

“EMS is now seeing a call or so a day for COVID patients,” said Honolulu EMS Director Jim Ireland. “Almost every person getting admitted to the hospital is unvaccinated. They’re coming in for shortness of breath. They’re getting put on ventilators still.”

Meanwhile, with the lockdown lifted and the return of visitors who need non-COVID help, crews are constantly on the go.

Data shows they’re getting dispatched more now than they did prior to the pandemic.

In June, EMS received 8,023 calls for service. That’s nearly 1,500 more than in June 2020 ― when large-scale COVID restrictions were in place.

It’s also surpassed June 2019 numbers by more than 200 calls.

“On any given day who knows what might happen?” said Gregorio. “We’re getting an uptick in rescues. We can only handle so much on a given shift and when we run out of resources we have to rely on other partners.”

It’s why EMS officials say now more than ever is the time to get vaccinated.

“The hospitals are full of regular medical issues and trauma and injuries now,” said Ireland.

“With COVID going back up they are competing for those hospital beds and I’m not saying that hospitals are overwhelmed but it’s getting tighter.”

Because of the surge in calls, EMS is also reminding folks dialing 911 is for emergencies only.

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