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30 Mar, 2020 09:46

Covid-19 stretches NYC ambulances more than 9/11, exhausted FDNY lieutenant tells RT

Covid-19 stretches NYC ambulances more than 9/11, exhausted FDNY lieutenant tells RT

First responders in coronavirus-stricken New York have to deal with record-breaking numbers of calls, a shortage of equipment and a constant fear of getting the virus and bringing it home to their loved ones.

The Covid-19 epidemic in America's largest city has stretched the resources of its ambulances service worse than on the day of the country’s worst terrorist attack in 2001, Anthony Almojera, a Fire Department lieutenant and supervisor, told RT.

"In the last few days we've done over 44,000 calls. Just to give you some perspective, we normally do only about 4,000 calls a day," he explained. "9/11, which was the busiest day for the EMS, we've done 6,300 calls roughly. For the last couple of days we've done over 7,000."

The members are doing their best to provide emergency service needed to the city of New York. We're doing it. We need some help, but we're doing it.

Almojera goes on calls with paramedics, who work under NYC's Fire Department, and also serves as vice president in the FDNY EMS officers' union. He looked tired during the interview but said working double shifts and risking catching the virus themselves, which emergency workers do amid the crisis, comes with the job. 

We signed up for a job that is dangerous. We know we can be killed in the line of duty. We know we can get sick while caring for others.

The biggest concern his people report is that they may bring the disease into their own homes. "The city has not provided dedicated testing for first responders," he said. "I don't want to bring [the virus] home, if I have a wife or a husband and children.

"We've asked for extra dedicated testing for first responders. We've also asked for dedicated housing for first responders. For the people in the EMS, I should be in a dorm room or a hotel room instead of going home during this time," he added, saying that so far, the city has not provided any of the requests.

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The paramedics and other staff are dealing with a serious shortage of protective equipment like the N95 masks, Almojera said. So, often they have to improvise and wear what he described as "substandard gear," instead of proper equipment.

In this day and age in what is supposed to be the richest country on the planet it's unacceptable that nurses should be in trash bags.

However, he hopes that "going forward we will be getting what we need to help us staying safe and help save the lives of people.”

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