Colorado enacts crisis care standards for ambulances amid surge in pandemic

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A paramedic from Denver Health wheels a gurney from an ambulance to tend to an injured person near Grant Street and East Sixth Avenue, July 7, 2021. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER | For the second time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Colorado has implemented guidelines to try to ensure that ambulances are only used to take the most sick or injured patients to hospitals.

Colorado re-enacted the crisis standards of care for emergency medical services on Friday due the number of emergency medical staff out sick and high demand for ambulances, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said. The standards were last implemented in April 2020.

The standards allow ambulance services and crews to adjust whom they take to the hospital and the kind of care they provide depending on the resources available at the time.

“With increasing demands on hospitals and EMS, we need to make sure we can provide care to anyone who needs it immediately,” Colorado’s chief medical officer, Dr. Eric France, said in announcing the standards.

The standards recommend against using an ambulance to transport people under 60 with symptoms of “viral syndrome” who are not experiencing shortness of breath and do not have a history of high-risk medical conditions. Instead, they advise emergency medical responders to suggest those patients get a COVID-19 test and stay home. However, the standards say those people should be taken to the hospital by ambulance if they still request it.

In cases of people with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, CPR should only be performed if emergency medical technicians have personal protective equipment, under the standards. They also state that those with COVID-19 who are in “continuous cardiac arrest” should not be transported to the hospital. The health department did not immediately respond to a request for further explanation on the guidance.

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