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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has learned some cadets in training will hit the front lines to help Cleveland paramedics on the streets even before they graduate as Cleveland EMS struggles to get ambulances to 9-1-1 calls.

This comes in the midst of a spike in calls tied to COVID-19 and chronic short staffing.

Adding to that, earlier this week, the Division of EMS said 20 of its workers had to take time off the job after testing positive for COVID-19 themselves.

In a statement to the I-Team, EMS Commander Chris Chapin wrote, “To meet the needs of the City, EMS will add additional 13 qualified personnel from our current cadet class to the EMS deployment plan.  These cadets, due to graduate from the EMS Academy in early January, are ready and capable state-certified paramedics and emergency medical technicians.  They will work alongside our seasoned and experienced paramedics.  We have full confidence in their readiness to serve the city of Cleveland.”

Again, behind the desperate need sparked by COVID, the I-Team has repeatedly exposed EMS running well short of the number of ambulances City Hall has promised to have on the streets.

Daily, many units are taken out of service because the Division of EMS does not have enough paramedics to staff them.

This has led to delays even in life and death emergencies. We’ve uncovered response times for top priority calls as high as 14, 16, and 17 minutes.

Earlier this month, we also found a mother waiting 27 minutes for an ambulance as her teenage son struggled to breathe.

In more than one case, a patient has died waiting for an ambulance or after getting to the hospital following a long delay leaving family members to wonder if a faster response would have made a difference.

This month, the EMS Commissioner said the Division is constantly trying to hire more paramedics, and EMS tries to space out units around the City at all times so that there are not long delays.

But, even with the new class of cadets graduating in January, Nicole Carlton admitted EMS will still be short dozens of workers.

The I-Team has found long response times occur even when EMS moves ambulances around to cover gaps because staffing is down.

This week, City Council President Blaine Griffin made an appeal to the public to not call 911 for an ambulance for minor problems.

We’ve revealed people call because they can’t sleep or their shoes are too tight and more.

And, the City sends an ambulance to virtually every call.

The EMS Commissioner told us, despite the staffing issues, that policy would not be changing.