The Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) is officially pulling back from responding to cases that have the hallmarks of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) out of an abundance of caution.
According to the New York Daily News, a Friday FDNY order says that 911 calls for asthma attacks, fevers, coughs, and labored breathing will instead be handled solely by the city’s Emergency Medical Service.
Per the terms of that order, fire companies with personnel certified as first responders who would otherwise travel alongside emergency ambulance are now slated to stay put.
“Effective immediately, the following call types will temporarily not receive a CFR response,” reads a document obtained by the Daily News outlining the above-noted symptoms which are now off-limits for FDNY firefighters.
“Firefighters continue to respond to the highest priority medical calls, whether they are potential COVID-19 calls or not, including all segment 1 incidents, cardiac and respiratory arrests, choking, and trauma incidents,” FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer told the outlet.
“On every call type, additional fire and EMS resources can be dispatched as needed,” he added.
Segment 1 calls are considered a top priority for the FDNY. The new directive is in reference to so-called “segment 2” calls.
Dwyer cast the decision as an effort to conserve much-needed resources in America’s largest city.
The decision by the FDNY immediately presaged New York Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s Saturday morning issuance of a state of emergency due to the Coronavirus pre-pandemic and concomitant panic that has ensued due to the rapid spread of the deadly infection.
During a press conference announcing the state of emergency, Cuomo confirmed that the total number of cases in the Empire State had risen to 76, with 11 distinct cases in New York City. The two-term Democrat explained that the uptick was largely due to the efficacy of state testing capacity rather than a massive increase in transmission of the virus.
“That’s good news because we can put them in isolation,” he said, referencing the known patients. “The more positives you find, the better because you can isolate them and slow the spread.”
The New York Democrat also laid blame at the White House:
I believe the CDC was caught flat-footed. I believe the CDC was slow in their response, and I believe they’re slowing down the state.
“You know what’s worse than the virus?” Cuomo asked out loud before answering his own question. “The anxiety and the fear and the confusion.”
Anxieties are running high in New York and are likely to further increase as resources are strained and personnel are shifted haphazardly to deal with the panic and outbreaks. The EMT and paramedics union savaged the decision to hold back FDNY employees from Coronavirus calls.
“The Mayor says EMS is different, and this department order shows exactly how we stand apart,” Local 2507 President Oren Barzilay told the Daily News. “EMS is once again on the front lines as the city deals with the Coronavirus outbreak. Our members will go into the hot zone of people who might be infected. That is our job and we are faced with these kinds of dangers and others every day.”
“It is not the first time EMS has acted as the canary in the coal mine to protect the public, and it won’t be the last. It’s important now more than ever for the Mayor to acknowledge the work we do,” he added.
[image via David Dee Delgado/Getty Images]