EMS providing backup screening for coronavirus

Local News

EMS crews provide an extra layer of screening against the coronavirus, and can also back up state and federal agencies when needed.

Hawaii still has no cases, confirmed or suspected. But the city is getting ready just in case.

EMS says paramedics are trained to treat and have the protective equipment to respond, just in case a patient is showing any signs of the coronavirus during a 911 call.

“If you complain of a cough or shortness of breath with an associated fever, our questions through our 911 dispatch protocol is, we’ll ask if you traveled out of the state, if you had contact with somebody. So we are pre-screening those people,” said Ian Santee, EMS Deputy Director.

Visitors are already screened when they arrive at the airport by Customs and Border Protection agents. American Medical Response says it is also training staff to help with the screening, and will be responsible for transporting patients who need to be quarantined at the Pearl Harbor facility. EMS will serve as backup.

“Where we can, we are providing support to the state. The issues like transporting potentially exposed folks to the quarantine location, we are in coordination with the state to provide any support that we might need to,” said Hiro Toiya, Director of Emergency Management.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has been in contact with the mayors of the other cities designated as ports of entries for those who might be contaminated. He says the protocols are still being worked out.

“The one thing that is still gray that we need to resolve is, can you actually force someone? There’s police powers and health and safety and those need to be worked out and who does the enforcing? Is it the state sheriffs, the Honolulu Police Department?” he said.

Also unknown is the cost and who will pay for it, if the city winds up putting lots of patients under quarantine.

This all comes as the mayor recognized the Hawaii Fujian Business Association, which sent 100,000 masks to the Fujian Province in China, about 100 miles from Wuhan City, the epicenter of the contamination. The group says it bought the masks from a mainland broker and sent them to the area because it’s in dire need.

“In China if you don’t wear a mask you could be arrested or prosecuted. In fact, one of my relatives in Hong Kong told me that she didn’t wear a mask and someone spit at her,” said Eddie Flores, director of the Hawaii Fujian Business Association.

The group also sent 20,000 pieces of protective clothing for health workers.

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