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Patient Care

EMS Personnel Have 'Substantial Exposure' to COVID-19 Patients


AUSTIN, TX—ESO shared insights in a recent report from more than 9,900 EMS encounters for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 that occurred between October 1 and November 30, 2020. The data show EMS personnel, on average, spend more than 30 minutes with each COVID-19 patient, of which an average of 15 of these minutes take place during the transport period of an encounter in the back of an ambulance, often a confined, poorly ventilated space.

According to industry standards, the typical Type II (van-based) ambulance is 186 cubic feet, while Type III (modular) ambulances are 350 cubic feet. The typical hospital room is more than 900 cubic feet. Despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), at least 10 states are currently likely to exclude EMS personnel from the highest priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Based on our data, we see that EMS providers are spending substantial amounts of time with COVID-19 patients in enclosed spaces, often before knowing that the patient is positive,” said Brent Myers, MD, chief medical officer for ESO. “In urban areas, EMS personnel spend about 30 minutes with each patient, equally divided between on-scene and transport times. There are even greater total exposure times in rural areas and when transferring patients between healthcare facilities. These data provide support for the CDC ACIP, American College of Emergency Physicians, and National Association of EMS Physicians recommendations to include EMS personnel in the highest priority group for vaccination. Failure to do so will put both the provider and the community at unnecessary risk.”


Key EMS Provider Exposure Times with COVID-19 Patients:

EMS encounters Involving Patients Diagnosed with COVID-19

Average Scene Time (Patient Contact to Depart Scene)

Average Transport Time (Depart Scene to Arrival at Destination)

Average Total EMS Exposure Time

(Patient Contact to Arrival at Destination)

All EMS Events (9,940)

14.9 minutes

15.4 minutes

30.3 minutes

911 Responses (9,253)

14.9 minutes

15.0 minutes

29.9 minutes

Interfacility/Medical Transports (591)

14.8 minutes

22.6 minutes

37.4 minutes

Urban EMS Events (8,921)

14.7 minutes

14.5 minutes

29.2 minutes

Rural EMS Events (918)

16.4 minutes

24.5 minutes

40.9 minutes


“These data confirm EMS personnel are facing significant risk in treating COVID-19 patients, both in terms of space and exposure,” added Myers. “We hope this accelerates the commitment by all Federal and state parties to ensure EMS personnel receive the COVID-19 vaccine as early as possible.”

To learn more about COVID-19 and EMS, visit the ESO COVID-19 Resource Center. See the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and the National Association of EMS Physicians’ statements encouraging the inclusion of EMS personnel in the highest priority vaccine group.

ESO is dedicated to improving community health and safety through the power of data. Since its founding in 2004, the company continues to pioneer innovative, user-friendly software to meet the changing needs of today’s EMS agencies, fire departments, hospitals, and state EMS offices. ESO currently serves thousands of customers throughout North America with a broad software portfolio, including the ESO Electronic Health Record (EHR), the next generation ePCR; ESO Health Data Exchange (HDE), the first-of-its-kind healthcare interoperability platform; ESO Fire RMS, the modern fire Record Management System; trauma, burn, cardiac and stroke registry software; and ESO State Repository.


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