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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – While COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers continue to grow, many healthcare systems are once again feeling the impact. First responders are one of the many groups needing to take extra precautions.

“What we do know is a month ago, the positivity rate in Madison County was 4, 4.5 percent,” said HEMSI’s community relations officer Don Webster. “We know today that it’s exceeding 40%.”

While the virus is spreading quickly, Webster says HEMSI is not able to test each patient.

Whether patients are known to be sick or not, he said HEMSI’s first responders take the same precautions just in case to keep everyone safe.

“The EMTs and paramedics still use the personal protective equipment and still decon the ambulances and follow those protocols on all the patients,” he added.

Nearly two years into a pandemic, Webster says it continues to take a toll: “It is a stressful business they’re in mentally and physically.”

A lot of the stress comes from a staffing shortage, along with the extra work added to keep the HEMSI vehicles clean at all times which causes emergency response times to increase.

Webster says all the factors stemming from the pandemic cause their EMTs and paramedics to be exhausted.

“This has stressed our system and that’s why we want people to get vaccinated and still wear masks and still take precautionary measures,” said Webster.

Because emergency response times are taking longer right now, HEMSI encourages you to call 911 for true emergencies only.