Seminole County Fire Chief asks residents to reduce use of 9-1-1 due to increased COVID calls

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Seminole County’s Fire Chief sounded an alarm Tuesday over the high volume of medical transports his department has been responding to with a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.

Chief Otto Drozd is asking residents to only dial 9-1-1 if they have a medical emergency.

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Drozd said their call volumes have increased by 12-percent a day compared to this time last year.

Additionally, last week, the department saw a record number of medical transports with more than 600.

Chief Drozd warns his ambulances are occasionally being backed up for an hour or more to deliver people to the hospital. He says his paramedics are being stretched too thin in recent months, and warns they are at “crisis level” at certain times of day.

“With the hospitals being backed up with all the COVID patients, our units are having to wait an inordinate amount of time at the hospitals, in excess of an hour for our patients to be offloaded from our stretchers,” Chief Drozd said.

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The chief said sometimes the wait can be as long as two hours, with hundreds more patients hospitalized than just a month ago.

“In one case, just last week, our emergency department at one of our hospitals was 200 percent,” Seminole County Emergency Manager Alan Harris said. “A lot of these are COVID patients.”

Chief Drozd said the number of dispatched transports his department is handling is up nearly 20-percent from last year. He says minor COVID cases are detracting from their ability to have units available for other more serious emergencies.

“If you have a minor sore throat, some sniffles- those kinds of things people are calling for right now- are better taken care of with their primary care physician, or at clinics,” Chief Drozd said.

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Chief Drozd said people suffering from more serious symptoms of COVID, such as difficulty breathing, or chest pressure, should still call 9-1-1.

People are also still encouraged to use 9-1-1 to report fires and accidents, or other emergencies where life or property are in danger.

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Jeff Levkulich

Jeff Levkulich, WFTV.com

Jeff Levkulich joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in June 2015.