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First on 3: Cleveland has special EMS ambulance ready for transporting possible coronavirus patients

Memo obtained by 3News details updated protocol to city’s infectious disease response

CLEVELAND — With confirmed cases of coronavirus slowly creeping across the country, Cleveland and other cities are preparing their workers to respond to the possibility that the virus hits home.

Records obtained by 3News detail what the city’s EMS workers are supposed to do if 911 dispatchers receive calls from people complaining of breathing problems or flu-like symptoms.

Dispatchers first will screen callers about their contacts with people who recently traveled or who are being tested for the coronavirus. The questions are tailored to the latest information about the virus.

If the caller answers yes to certain questions, it will trigger a protocol for dealing with people potentially infectious respiratory diseases. This requires EMS workers to wear protective gear and respirators.

The city also has specially equipped ambulance that can be dispatched, according to the EMS division notice dated January 30, 2020. It has a sealed cab to keep EMS drivers from coming in contact with the patient and crew. This city will also send this special ambulance to assist another crew already on scene. In these cases, the special ambulance will be used.(You can read the division notice and the city's most recent respirator protection program guidelines below.)

In suspected cases of coronavirus, the EMS workers are required to keep patient in the special ambulance until ER hospital workers can dress in protective gear.  

EMS workers and firefighters, who did want to speak on the record to 3News, said they have questions about some aspects of the protocol and about possible quarantines for first responders and their families. Such issues, they say, have not been clearly addressed.

City Hall did not respond to questions about its EMS orders and plans for managing the possible spread of the virus.

But Cleveland, like most cities, has plans on the books for dealing with infectious diseases. And officials have insisted they are constantly updating the plans for the coronavirus. Mayor Frank Jackson told three news earlier this week that the city is prepared.

"There's an overall plan but the situation changes from day to day right now, we don't have the level of concerns that they have in Washington state but that doesn't mean it won't happen so we're working," he said.

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