New York has quickly become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with the New York Post reporting Sunday that the state had hit nearly 60,000 COVID-19 cases — more than 30,000 of which were concentrated in New York City. And according to the Washington Examiner, the Big Apple’s emergency services are feeling the effects of the outbreak.
New York City’s 911 system has received a record number of calls amid the pandemic, the Washinton Examiner reports — the most its seen since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The distressing news comes by way of Oren Barzilay, the president of a local union that represents dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics who work in the city called Local 2507. According to the Examiner, Barzilay told Bloomberg News that emergency medical service calls are up about 40% over average amid the outbreak, with the city’s 911 system receiving upwards of 6,500 calls per day.
“Our busiest day of the year, we usually do 5,000 calls. That’s usually New Years Day. We have shattered a record last night,” the union president told Bloomberg.
A spike in calls
Speaking with Bloomberg, Barzilay pointed to a surge in calls related to respiratory cases as the driver behind the phenomenon.
“Due to the spike, we have some calls that are waiting three, four hours to get an ambulance,” he lamented.
Barzilay’s comments were echoed by Anthony Almojera, another first responders’ union representative who said the city has seen more and more calls for “fever and cough,” Bloomberg reported.
“Most since September 11th,” Almojera told Bloomberg, according to the Examiner.
Three weeks ago, when COVID-19 first began spreading in the New York metro area, dispatchers were only receiving about 20 calls per day related to the disease, Bloomberg reported. Last week, however, the city’s 911 system got about 300 calls per day — and the number has only increased from there.
An impending crisis?
According to the Examiner, New York City’s 911 system comprises roughly 2,000 dispatchers, the vast majority of whom serve the police department; only about 400 service the EMS system, while 200 service the fire department.
Those numbers are quickly being depleted, however. According to Barzilay, some 200 dispatchers are currently out sick — and there’s no telling how many more will follow.
“We are already past the surge for our system. We passed that mark,” Barzilay told Bloomberg. “If we lose another 10% of people to falling ill from this, I think the city is going to be in a crisis.”
One can only hope that prediction doesn’t become reality.