Data shows substantial exposure of EMS providers to COVID-19 patients

An analysis by ESO found that providers spent more than 30 minutes on average with each confirmed COVID-19 patient, including 15 minutes in the confined space of an ambulance


By Laura French

AUSTIN, Texas — ESO, a data and software company serving EMS organizations, fire departments and hospitals, has published insights into more than 9,900 EMS encounters with confirmed COVID-19 patients, finding that providers experienced substantial exposure to these patients in the confined space of an ambulance. 

The company used data from calls that occurred between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30, 2020, collected through the ESO Data Collaborative, according to an ESO press release. The data showed that providers, on average, spent more than 30 minutes with each COVID-19 patient, of which an average of 15 minutes took place during transport in the back of an ambulance. 

Data from EMS data and software company ESO shows that EMS providers spent an average of 15 minutes with each confirmed COVID-19 patient in the back of an ambulance.
Data from EMS data and software company ESO shows that EMS providers spent an average of 15 minutes with each confirmed COVID-19 patient in the back of an ambulance. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

"Based on our data, we see that EMS providers are spending substantial amounts of time with COVID-19 patients in enclosed spaces, often before knowing that the patient is positive," said ESO Chief Medical Officer Brent Myers, in a statement. "In urban areas, EMS personnel spend about 30 minutes with each patient, equally divided between on-scene and transport times. There are even greater total exposure times in rural areas and when transferring patients from healthcare facilities." 

In rural areas, ESO found providers were exposed to patients for an average of more than 40 minutes, with nearly 25-minute average transport times. For interfacility transfers, patient encounters lasted more than 37 minutes on average, with nearly 23-minute average transport times. 

"These data confirm EMS personnel are facing significant risk in treating COVID-19 patients, both in terms of space and exposure," Myers stated. "We hope this accelerates the commitment by all Federal and state parties to ensure EMS personnel receive the COVID-19 vaccine as early as possible." 

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