I-Team: Call to Cleveland EMS has city ambulance system scrambling to come up with coronavirus plan

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CLEVELAND (WJW) -- The FOX 8 I-Team has learned a call to Cleveland EMS now has the city ambulance system scrambling to come up with a plan for handling the coronavirus just in case crews see it here.

A call for a sick patient Monday night had paramedics stopping to make sure they are prepared.

The call came in for a young adult with flu-like symptoms, and not too long ago, the patient had been to China.

That, suddenly, had Cleveland EMS wondering about the coronavirus spreading worldwide from China.

Turns out the patient on this call did not have that virus. But, it has the city ambulance service putting a priority on coming up with plans for what to do if paramedics come in contact with a patient suffering from the coronavirus.

EMS Commander Chris Chapin said, “We just make preparations in case it shows up here. We’ve had no reports of that.” He added, “We are working with the local and state health departments, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), and we are making preparations for the worst-case scenario if it does show up.”

Multiple sources confirm to the I-Team, when the call came in from a person who’d been to China, Cleveland EMS didn’t just rush into the home. Dispatch ended up getting in contact with supervisors and even the Centers for Disease Control talking about the best way to handle the call in case it turned out to be more than some routine illness.

The patient lived just over the border in Cleveland Heights, so rescuers there took the patient to the hospital.

Cleveland Heights firefighters showed us masks and special ambulance equipment. There, too, the coronavirus serves as new reason to make sure crews are ready.

Cleveland Heights Assistant Fire Chief John Bryan said, “Any time something comes up that is out of the ordinary, we take a step back. We look at what our protocols are.”

He added, “We protect the patient by putting equipment on the patient. Then, we have our own equipment that we put on ourselves.”

University Hospitals released a statement saying, “We can confirm one patient was seen in our ER last night, who was evaluated, did not meet criteria for coronavirus testing, and was released. We also had three people come in over the weekend who were concerned, and they did not meet the criteria for coronavirus testing as well.”

Still, you can see why Cleveland EMS is working on guidelines for handling coronavirus patients.

Chris Chapin said, “We want to get it through as soon as we can. We don’t want to rush it. We don’t want to take our time, either.”

Privately, paramedics in Cleveland are concerned about equipment. They want to make sure they have what they need to protect themselves.

The city says no new equipment has been ordered—or needed.

We’ll follow up when the city finishes work on the new protocols.

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