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'You're Always Thinking About COVID,' Stress On EMTs Increases During Pandemic

MEDFORD (CBS) - Frontline workers are now in their ninth month battling the COVID-19 pandemic. For Emergency Medical Technicians coronavirus has introduced a new kind of uncertainty to their jobs.

"You're always thinking about COVID," paramedic Victor Markaze told WBZ-TV. "You don't know who's sick and who's not sick anymore, so now everyone is being treated as sick."

It's an unprecedented time for Markaze and EMTs with Armstrong Ambulance whose job it is to answer the call.

But what that call is has never been more uncertain and during a pandemic and the recent surge in cases the stress has increased.

"You can't see this, it's pervasive, it's everywhere," said Clinical Services Director Ben Podsiadlo.

It's a job where time is of the essence. These frontline workers are used to high-intensity, life-threatening situations.

But every call is now a potential COVID exposure and mistakes could lead to infection.

"If we do forget something and we don't take the necessary precautions, then we're going to put everybody at risk," Markaze said.

Which is why timeliness also equals caution. A few necessary extra minutes to don PPE, including gowns, gloves and face shields, ambulances decontaminated after every call, and in a job where patient contact is everything, they've had to adapt.

EMTs at Armstrong Ambulance. (WBZ-TV)

"You're a very sick person in bed, wherever you are and someone approaches you like this it's frightening, so we try and keep people calm," Podsiadlo told WBZ.

Armstrong Ambulance receives about 50 emergency calls on a daily basis. In the last few weeks an increasing number have had to do with respiratory issues leading to increasing concern about COVID exposure.

They watch their patients and each other.

"We just want to make sure they go home safely to their families at night," Markaze said.

Making it the most challenging time in their professional lives.

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