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Frequently Asked Questions


My agency has limited PPE.  What should I do?   There are several things EMS agencies can do to extend their supply of PPE.  The CDC has provided some good guidance for EMS workers.  One way to ensure efficient use of PPE is to limit exposure to a single provider.  Begin your primary assessment from a distance of at least 6 feet while using a facemask.  If the signs and symptoms suggest that the patient may be a COVID-19 patient, don appropriate PPE before providing direct care.  Separate the driver from patient contact whenever possible which will limit the need for specific PPE.  Also, follow CDC guidelines for extended PPE use.  To extend the life of your PPE, consider reusing PPE according to CDC guidelines.  Finally, if you have an immediate need for PPE, make a request to the regional EMS Council.  A request form link was sent to the Superusers of all Designated Emergency Response Agencies.


Must I transport a suspected COVID-19 patient to a specific hospital?  No.  Virginia has not designated specific hospitals to receive COVID-19 patients.  All hospitals should be equipped to provide care to COVID-19 patients.  Refer to guidance on this site for any changes to regional patient transport policies.  IF a local hospital designates specific resources for COVID-19 patients, and you can utilize these without risk to your patient, it is permissible to bypass a local hospital in favor of these specialty care resources; however, this is not required.


What is the Office of EMS doing in response to the COVID-19 emergency?  The Virginia Office of EMS has taken several measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis.  For the latest information, refer to their official webpage.


I heard there was a COVID-19 patient in my area, have you heard anything?  This situation is rapidly evolving. For the most up to date information, check the VDH website, which is updated daily, including maps of counties and independent cities where cases are reported from.   Rumors are not helpful during crisis events.  VDH identifies COVID-19 patients, investigates exposures, collaborates with local officials in response, and announces confirmed cases.  Only trust official announcements concerning COVID-19 patients.


What do I do if I transport a patient I suspect of having COVID-19?  First, be sure to isolate and limit exposure of other persons (including other EMS personnel).  Take appropriate PPE precautions.  IF TRANSPORTING THE PATIENT, utilize appropriate ventilation in the ambulance and limit aerosol-generating procedures.  NOTIFY THE RECEIVING FACILITY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  Follow appropriate ambulance/equipment cleaning procedures using an approved cleanser.  If not transporting the patient, contact your local health department.


What do I do if one of my crew members might have been exposed?  If you suspect an exposure, contact your local health department for assistance in determining appropriate actions.  You can local a list of local health departments here.


Where do I find regional protocols and policies related to COVID-19?  EMS providers can access regional protocols via our website OR using our mobile apps.


Is the EMS Council giving out free PPE?  The Southwest Virginia EMS Council received a limited supply of PPE to support EMS agencies in our region.  Due to limited supplies, priority is given to Designated Emergency Response Agencies (DERA) and non-DERA agencies who serve in a DERA capacity.  PPE allocations are based on current inventories and call volume.  EMS agencies MUST MAKE A REQUEST to receive supplies.  A link to this form was emailed to EMS agency superusers.  If your agency DID NOT RECEIVE the link, an authorized agency leader should call the council office at (276) 628-4151.


I am a fire department/police department/other healthcare agency who does not have PPE, can the EMS Council provide PPE to me?  Unfortunately, our limited supply of PPE can only be distributed to licensed EMS agencies.  Please contact your local emergency manager for assistance.


Can my agency use expired PPE?  The CDC has developed general strategies for optimizing the supply of N95 respirators.  There are also guidelines for optimizing the supply of N95 respirators during Crisis.  These guidelines do include use of PPE beyond the manufacturer designated shelf life.  Be sure to include your Operational Medical Director in these decisions.


Where can I find additional information about COVID-19?  The Southwest Virginia EMS Council posts information on our website and on social media and sends out email communications to EMS agencies.  If you need to update your agency contact information, please contact our office.

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