Grand County EMS director Andy Smith

Grand County EMS Director Andy Smith. [Moab Sun News file photo]

After a Grand County EMS crew was spotted in full masks and gowns, alarm spread in Moab about possible COVID-19 infections.

“Please note that at this time we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Grand County. Our crews are taking extra precautions with all patients,” said a statement by the department online.

Andy Smith, executive director of the Grand County EMS Special Service District, explained the current procedure.

“If our crews come into contact with a known COVID patient, or a suspected COVID patient, they will be wearing all the proper PPE (personal protective equipment) and will be of very low risk for contracting the virus,” Smith said to the Moab Sun News.

Smith noted that other emergency calls currently pose more of a danger to first responders.

If a car accident or another emergency call comes in with no COVID-19 suspicion, Smit explained, the entire responding crew will be immediately quarantined and tested if their patient later tests positive for the illness.

“These unknown patients pose the greatest risk to all of our first responders,” Smith said.

In an already intensely demanding field, the threat of coronavirus adds additional stress to EMTs, fire department workers and other first responders. Smith is expressive when talking about the pressures on his crew.

“On a normal day, our staff operated at 110% mentally,” he said. “In the current situation, they have to operate more at a 150% capacity” which Smith worries could lead to fatigue and burnout.

While crews are getting plenty of downtime between shifts and are being offered mental health counselors, Smith says there’s something easy that every Grand County resident can do to support them.

“The most important thing all first responders need from the community is support,” Smith says, “saying hi when you see us, and staying healthy!"