Wake, Mecklenburg, Durham and Franklin are among the latest counties in North Carolina to get help making emergency medical calls from the federal government.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent 25 ambulances, each with a two-person crew, to a dozen counties last week. The state requested the FEMA crews on behalf of the counties to help their local Emergency Management Services get through the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Kelly Haight Connor, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Not only has the coronavirus increased EMS calls, but many agencies are struggling with absences because employees either tested positive for the virus or were exposed to someone who did.
“These locations are receiving ambulances based on an ask from these counties and the number of trucks they cannot staff due to the staffing outages,” Connor wrote in an email.
The FEMA crews are scheduled to work with the county EMS agencies through Feb. 3, Connor said.
Wake and Mecklenburg each received four FEMA ambulances, while Durham received two and Franklin one. The other counties to get at least one truck and crew are Forsyth, Guilford, New Hanover, Onslow, Rowan and Union. Camden and Pasquotank counties in the northeast corner of the state will share a FEMA ambulance and crew.
Wake EMS was struggling with a rising number of calls and higher than usual job vacancies last fall, before the omicron variant of the coronavirus caused the current spike in cases.
This is the second time FEMA has provided ambulance crews to help local EMS agencies in North Carolina. FEMA also sent 25 to nine counties in September, as the state dealt with the previous wave of COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant of the virus.
The earlier crews were initially scheduled to remain on duty for 10 days. Instead, they worked in the state for six weeks, through the end of October, according to Keith Acree, spokesman for the state Division of Emergency Management.