COVID-19 surge continues to stretch DMV fire departments, hospitals thin

The surge in COVID-19 cases continues to stretch resources at area hospitals and fire departments across the DMV.

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On Tuesday, Montgomery County Fire Chief Scott Goldstein alerted staff to changes at the department with nearly 10 percent of employees off the job.

Goldstein said 110 career and 23 volunteer personnel are unable to work due to COVID, in addition to about 75 employees out for other reasons.

"It is definitely a concern that the numbers, while they’re substantial today, have gone up significantly in the last 48 hours—that those will continue to go up," said Goldstein.

READ MORE: DMV fire departments grapple with surge in COVID-19 cases

In an email to the department, he described how the staff is being redeployed, with recent recruits skipping the probationary process, firefighters training to be paramedics returning to field staffing, and two units going out of service.

He said fire crews have continued to work mandatory overtime.

"Our men and women are extraordinarily tired," Goldstein said. "Fatigued. We have all been at this for a two-year period of time now."

Elsewhere in the region, Prince George’s County Fire now has 92 employees in quarantine, and for DC Fire, that number has ballooned to 363.

READ MORE: Maryland sets new single-day record for new COVID-19 cases amid surge

Staffing shortages are compounded when ambulance crews have to wait with patients at hospitals until there’s a free bed.

Bob Atlas, CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said Tuesday that Maryland hospitals are more than 90 percent full.

Both in D.C. and Montgomery County, paramedic crews have been delayed as they wait with patients.

"We’re seeing those times exponentially increase," said Goldstein. "In this region, we’ve seen two to three hours."


He said changes are now in effect that allow crews to take patients to different hospitals where wait times are shorter.