Florida county residents asked to limit 911 calls amid COVID-19 surge

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Officials from one Florida county are asking residents to use 911 sparingly amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

An overflow of coronavirus patients in hospitals and emergency rooms has led to capacity issues, impacting first responders and ambulance services, according to Brevard County Fire Rescue Chief Mark Schollmeyer.

Schollmeyer said people with less urgent medical needs should consider looking at other alternatives to calling 911, such as contacting their primary care physician or utilizing telemedicine. With hospitals running out of room, he stressed that people leave emergency room and ambulance trips to those with “life-threatening or serious emergencies.”

People wait in cars to get a COVID-19 test, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Miami. COVID-19 has strained some Florida hospitals so much that ambulance services and fire departments can no longer respond as usual to every call. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

“Our BCFR ambulances are seeing an increase in hospital times due to not being able to turn patients over to hospital staff,” Schollmeyer said. “We continue to ask that people use 9-1-1 sparingly for non-emergent issues and to save the ambulances and ER trips for those who urgently need those services.”

“Just being COVID positive but asymptomatic does not always make it a life-threatening emergent condition requiring a trip to the ER,” he added. “We ask people to take advantage of your primary care physician, telemedicine, or urgent care and leave emergency room and ambulance trips for those with life-threatening or serious emergencies.”

Orlando Dominguez, the fire department’s assistant chief of emergency medical service operations told NBC News they will never refuse transport for people who call them.

“But we’re also conveying to the public that if you’ve fallen and might have hurt your knee or you have a cough, things like that, that are not emergent or urgent, they should follow up with their primary care physician or go into a walk-in clinic,” Dominguez said.

Schollmeyer added that his department has seen an increase in both COVID-19 positive and symptomatic patients over the last few weeks – possibly exceeding the height of the pandemic in 2020. 

On Monday, all three hospital systems in the county were over capacity and continued to deal with a “strong” surge in patients, resulting in the cancellation of elective surgeries and converting regular hospital space into COVID-19 space, said Brevard County Emergency Director John Scott. 

“It is imperative that we pull together, we get through this and slow this curve to relieve the stress on our hospital system and our healthcare system so we can take care of everyone who gets sick,” Scott said.

Coronavirus-related hospital admissions in Brevard County — the 10th-largest in the state — jumped by more than 24% last week, the outlet reported.

Brevard County is located east of Orlando.

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