Emergency dispatch centers screen for coronavirus symptoms in southern Arizona

Updated: Jan. 27, 2020 at 10:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Operators at 911 centers across southern Arizona are screening calls for possible cases of coronavirus.

The Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed the state’s first case of the illness Sunday, Jan. 26. The following day, experts offered resources and guidelines from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services for first responders to limit their exposure to coronavirus.

Before those emergency crews respond to a situation, 911 operators will ask some additional questions to people who mention respiratory issues.

“There’s already been one case here in Arizona and we’re doing this for our providers safety as well,” said Mike Thompson, communications center manager for American Medical Response in southern Arizona.

He said AMR teams across the country rolled out the safety measure Friday, following a recommendation from the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch and local medical directors.

Once the dispatchers pass along the information, responding teams have equipment on hand to protect them from possible contamination. Tucson Rural Metro Fire Battalion Chief John Walka said the respirator mask that each individual is fitted for is probably “the most important part” in their efforts to stop any potential spread.

Their job might put firefighters and paramedics in situations involving coronavirus or other contagious illness, but Walka said their common sense defense is just like everyone else.

“Effective hand washing all the time is absolutely essential,” he said.

ADHS posted public resources online as well.

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