Study: EMS may be spreading COVID-19 due to lack of consistent protocols

Preliminary results from a national study released this week reveal inconsistent decontamination practices may be contributing to the spread of the virus


By Rachel Engel 

Recently published results of a survey of EMS providers from across the U.S. revealed inconsistent protocols, policies and training related to COVID-19 response could be contributing to the spread of the virus.  

Cody Vaugh Gibson and Dr. George Donald Collier of the Calhoun Community College Biological Sciences Research Group; and Christian Ventura, a researcher at the Center for Mind and Brain Studies at Bard College, published preliminary results of their study this week, with the goal to “investigate available resources, PPE availability, sanitation practices, institutional policies and opinions” of EMS providers through a self-reported survey.  

The results, which reflect provider responses from all 50 states, revealed: 

  • Limited access to N95 respirators 

  • Little or no benefits for COVID-19-related work 

  • No institutional policy on social distancing practices 

For those who did report having access to N95 respirators, 31% of respondents reported using the same mask for one week or longer.  

In addition, the survey revealed that one-third of those responding were unclear as to when a COVID-19 patient is infectious, as well as a lack of decontamination consistency across agencies.  

The research team concluded from the study that the industry would “benefit from a nationally established COVID-19 EMS response protocol,” as well as “further investigation on whether current EMS practices are contributing to the spread of infection.” 

For information about COVID-19 policies and protocols that can be adapted for any fire or EMS department, visit the Lexipol COVID-19 Learning and Policy Center.  

Read the full results of the study here.  

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