The Kansas City Star: ‘It hits close to home’: Kansas City EMT’s death from COVID-19 heightens anxiety

April 15, 2020

Saint Luke’s offers drive-thru coronavirus testing for first responders who work in more than 40 departments across the metro. 

“I think that what happened with the death of Billy Birmingham … will really increase the conversation about making sure that we protect those people that are on the front lines,” Dr. Marc Larsen, incident command operations chief for the Saint Luke’s Health System.

First responders — police officers, paramedics, firefighters and EMTs — are at high risk for coronavirus infection.

“I think you could say that there is a high level of anxiety,” said KCPD spokesman Capt. Dave Jackson. “Officers have all that and they don’t want to bring this home to their loved ones. This is a danger that brings their family risk as well. It’s stressful, but that’s what they come on to do. We don’t have anybody quitting.”

KCPD is one of the first repsonder organizations that now partners with Saint Luke's for their COVID-19 testing. 

Larsen was an EMT before he became a physician and knows the risks that first responders are facing in this moment.

“If you are a first responder, paramedic or EMT and you are in the house of a patient that potentially has been sick, and is coughing, then you have to think about everything in that house being potentially contaminated,” he said.

Should a first responder test positive, Larsen said, “we ask them to stay at home … quarantine at home.”

“If they have come into contact with any of their partners, if it’s a partner-based crew, or EMS, or fire, or PD where they are in direct contact with potentially one or three or four people, we ask those people to closely monitor their symptoms, wear masks at all times at work, and get tested if they have symptoms,” he said.

He said he would tell first responders to treat all patients as if they have COVID-19.

“If you think of that, if it’s always in the back of your mind, and you practice good hand hygiene and you wear a mask, then I think those are going to be the biggest things that keep you safe,” he said.

Read The Kansas City Stars full article: ‘It hits close to home’: Kansas City EMT’s death from COVID-19 heightens anxiety

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