CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — Faced with a quickly evolving health situation, the members of the newly formed Saratoga County Northway Corridor Public Health Task Force Tuesday partnered with the Saratoga County EMS Coordinator and an officer from the Clifton Park and Halfmoon Emergency Corps to inform and demonstrate the precautionary measures being taken by EMS staff due to presence of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Task Force partnership was established a week ago and includes the supervisors of the towns of Clifton Park, Halfmoon, Malta, Moreau and Wilton.
On Tuesday Task Force members were joined by Saratoga County EMS Coordinator Dr. Mike McEvoy, José Zermeno, Clifton Park and Halfmoon Emergency Corps Deputy Director of Clinical Services, and Clifton Park Town Board member Amy Standaert. The media availability was held at the Emergency cops’ headquarters, 15 Crossings Boulevard, Clifton Park.
“Part of the Task Force mission is to pass along information and share knowledge,” said Clifton Park Supervisor Philip Barrett. “We’re here today to let people know about the EMS personnel who are on the front lines, how we communicate within the county EMS system, and what they’re doing to protect themselves.”
Barrett said all the towns had been receiving queries in the past few weeks about first responders and in particular their health.
“I know there’s a great deal of concern by residents that if there is a large scale compromising of the community’s health, who would answer the call when they need EMS service,” he said. “We’re here to let you know what our frontline EMS personnel are doing to protect themselves and the people they serve.”
Barrett added that the EMS personnel are properly trained and impeccably prepared for every situation.
“We are immensely proud of the professionalism, the amount of training that our EMS personnel undertake on a regular basis to insure that they are ready to respond to any situation,” he said. “When we get together with our emergency service personnel in the county we don’t see panic; we see urgency. We see focus.”
In his turn, McEvoy spoke about how the current situation has changed things and what people might see due to those changes.
“Nobody who is on the front lines and more at risk is more capable in keeping the public calm in this situation than our EMS workers,” he said. “We work very closely in the county with the 12 ambulance services we have, our law enforcement colleagues, and our fire departments.”
McEvoy acknowledged that where law enforcement and firefighters used to respond to routine medical calls they are now staying away and EMS services are sending fewer numbers.
“They are doing that and letting the professionals answer those calls in order to protect the workforce so they can protect the community,” he said.
Emergency dispatch is also more closely screening all emergency phone calls so that EMS personnel can be better prepared when they arrive on scene, he said.
“We want to make sure they have all the equipment they need so that they aren’t exposed to someone who is potentially infectious when they get there,” he said. “Not only do they have the skill set to recognize someone is not infectious with coronavirus but may have the flu, but they also have the tools that they need to take care of that person and bring them to the proper place.”
McEvoy said at present EMS personnel are waiting to have their scope of practice expanded by the state health commissioner today or tomorrow that allows them to take people to places other than hospitals, do more on the scene, and expand their scope of practice to meet the needs of the community.
“We also want to make sure we are getting information out to these folks on a regular basis so they have the proper information,” he said.
To show what types of equipment EMS personnel will be wearing should they arrive at someone’s home where there is the potential for coronavirus infection, Zermeno demonstrated gloves, face masks for patients, EMS surgical masks, goggles, and the gowns they will wear.
“There are resources in the county for restocking these supplies when we runout of them. The best thing people can do right now is to stay away from crowds,” he said.
“It’s important to get out there that that EMS personnel have what they need to do their job, and there are stockpiles as needed,” Barrett said.
When asked if any of the towns had reduced their town hall staff by the 50 percent as ordered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier in the morning Supervisor Darren O’Connor of Malta said his town had done so Monday and Supervisor Todd Kusnierz of Moreau said his town was in the process of doing so at that very moment.
Supervisor John Lant, of Wilton, said he was in conversation with his board over the issue. Halfmoon Supervisor Kevin Tollisen put his town’s employees on flexible schedules Sunday. Barrett saw it as being difficult because staffing in his town is so lean to begin with and because town employees are doing additional duties for seniors.
“They are all committed to doing that and it will be more of a challenge if you are lessening your workforce at the same time,” he said.
With regard to the issue of the senior population, Standaert made note of Clifton Park’s “R.U.OK?” program which checks on seniors in their homes. She advised any senior in town who feels they are homebound and concerned about going out and who has not signed up already, to visit the town website and fill out the new, greatly reduced, application form.
The state Department of Health Hotline for information on the coronavirus is: 888-364-3065.