Front-line responders in New York City, the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the US, are facing "battlefield conditions," said Michael Greco, Vice President of the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (FDNY EMS) union.
“We’re now in a major triage mode," he told CNN. "If we don’t get a return of circulation, after 20 minutes we are terminating the CPR and we are not transporting.”
The hour or so that they spend transporting patients to hospital is now "battlefield triage," he said. "We’re in wartime mode."
Greco said that before the coronavirus outbreak, he and other paramedics would see perhaps one or two cardiac arrests a week. One FDNY EMS crew handled seven cardiac arrests yesterday alone.
"As an EMT (emergency medical technician) or a paramedic, doctors too, and nurses, we all swore oaths to do everything we can to save a life and now we’re making decisions that we were never trained for to handle mentally," he said.
Emergency workers are fearing for their lives: Some members are sleeping in their cars or hotel rooms, afraid they could get infected and bring the virus to their homes and families, Greco said.
“We have members who filled out wills because they don’t know where this is going.”