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First paramedic COVID-19 case confirmed in York Region

The paramedic, and one other paramedic who may have been exposed, are doing well in self-isolation, chief of paramedic service says
2019 10 16 Paramedic station chief DK
York Region Paramedic Services Chief Chris Spearen. File photo/NewmarketToday

The first case of COVID-19 for a York Region paramedic has been confirmed.

"Thankfully, our paramedic is doing well and recovering at home in self-isolation," said Chris Spearen, chief of York Region Paramedic Services.

York Region public health has completed its risk assessment since the paramedic was confirmed positive yesterday, April 21, Spearen said, and one other paramedic at potential risk for exposure is in self-isolation until April 24.

The paramedic had not been at work for "a number of days" prior to the onset of symptoms, he said.

Spearen would not comment on which community station the paramedic with COVID-19 is based. 

It has not the first time during the pandemic that, "out of an abundance of caution," staff have been in isolation after suspected exposure to COVID positive patients or other close contacts, Spearen said.

However, there is no staffing shortfall, he added.

"York Region Paramedic Services staffing continues to be stable during the pandemic. In anticipation of potential staff loss due to the pandemic, we took proactive measures to increase staffing for our ambulances by deferring training, increasing frontline ambulances, recruiting new paramedics and allowing paramedics to cancel vacation that had been booked."

"I thank each and every one of our paramedics and frontline staff for their courage, commitment and professionalism during this global pandemic," he said.

The disruption in personal protection equipment (PPE) supply chains remains a challenge, as it does for all health care agencies, Spearen said, and teams have been dedicated to source and procure PPE and work directly with York Region’s emergency operations centre.

"At present, we have not had an instance where we ran out of any PPE in our system," he said.

Spearen said weekly reports are being provided to the union on PPE inventory "to remain transparent."

Paramedic services is following the PPE conservation initiatives based on directives issued by the Ministry of Health and Ontario's chief medical officer of health, he said.

"We continue to follow appropriate infectious disease practices with all patient interactions, maintain good hand hygiene and maintain station and vehicle cleanliness," he said.

Ontario's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, issued a directive March 30 that "at a minimum" gloves, face shields or goggles, gowns, and surgical/procedure masks must be used by paramedics for all interactions with suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients.



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Debora Kelly

About the Author: Debora Kelly

Debora Kelly is NewmarketToday's editor. She is an award-winning journalist and communications professional who is passionate about building strong communities through engagement, advocacy and partnership.
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