MILLBURN, NJ — With more cases of COVID-19, commonly known as coronavirus, popping up at the local, county, state and nationwide levels, the lives and plans of multiple township residents, business and organizations have changed drastically.
The Millburn/Short Hills Volunteer First Aid Squad (MSHVFAS) is no different. TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills spoke with President H. Steven Roth and Vice President Bryan Daubert to see how members of the squad have had to change the way they do their job to deal with this new reality.
"Night and day, life has totally changed," Roth said."the rules have all changed. Everything that we've learned, everything that we know, except we can't access a patient right now without wearing a mask. You can cut your finger, you can trip on the curb ... but [for] everybody, we have to have a mask."
"We will only ride two or three people on an ambulance now. We used to ride four or better to be able to give more thorough patient care. We'll only ride two or three because we don't want as many people in the ambulance at any one time, just to keep our social distance."
In addition, Roth noted that the squad now disinfects their building every day, and has added UV lights as well. When the interview took place, Roth noted that he had come back from a potential COVID call, and had to suit up in full personal protective equipment (PPE).
As a result of the feelings of anxiety and fear among the public, he said that the squad has seen a major uptick in service calls from the public related to COVID-19. However, Roth stressed that unless there was a concrete confirmation, residents should first take proper quarantine and social distancing steps, before calling the MSHVFAS to take a look at their concerns.
If the trend of calls to the squad among residents increases at an exponential rate, Roth noted that they could soon find their stockpiles of PPE being depleted in short order.
"Our services are being taxed to the nth degree," Roth said. "Equipment is unbelievably hard to get. We're fortunate that for the short term, we're pretty good. I know there's other places that have nothing. But if we have three, four, five COVID calls a day, it'll deplete in ten days or two weeks."
Daubert interjected, and said that while the situation for the all-volunteer squad has changed with COVID-19, the MSHVFAS's commitment to providing its services has not.
"The one thing that Steve mentions is that the world's different now than it was before," Daubert said. " The one thing that's not different is that we are still here 24 hours a day, seven day a week to make sure we're able to treat our patients."
As the situation surrounding coronavirus changes, Roth noted that the squad is in contact with the municipal government, and has an action plan moving forward under the current conditions.
"I, as president of the first aid squad, I meet with the township every day," Roth said. "I meet with the township administrator, sometimes our mayor is there, as well as the fire chief and the police chief and our OEM coordinator. So we have daily meetings at 4:30 every day. We have an action plan, contingency plans, but obviously the resources are getting scarce.
"But we are constantly revamping, changing on a daily basis to make sure that we can serve the next day, the next week, and hopefully the next month."
However, Roth did note the strains on all facets of their job from COVID-19, including the increased amount of patients at the hospitals that they transport patients to.
Daubert added on to Roth's point about preparedness, and noted once again how vital the support from the community is in their efforts, both now and during normal service.
"I agree with Steve," Daubert said. 'I think we educate ourselves on a daily basis. i don't think anyone has all the answers currently, but what we do is we're constantly in communication with one another ... we're adapting. When you said about planning into the future, again, Steve mentioned it before.
"We're okay today with protective gear for our people, but it's something that we can always use going forward, and it's scarce right now. We're planning in every way we can and we have orders out to many different firms on this, but again, we rely on our public as well to help support us on this."
Lastly, Roth and Daubert also noted that one of the biggest things residents can do during the COVID-19 pandemic is to remain calm, and donate equipment to the squad when they can, in order to help shore up their operations moving forward.