COVID-19 has increased costs for Orangeburg County’s emergency services departments.
Emergency Services Director Billy Staley reported personal protective equipment and other virus-related purchases have cost the hundreds of thousands of dollars. More supplies need to be purchased.
“We should prepare for more waves of COVID-19 spikes until we get enough people vaccinated,” Staley said during Orangeburg County Council’s retreat last week.
“There are many unknowns with it, and we must be vigilant. Preparing for increases in cases is a high priority. Staying ahead of demand for the PPE, cleaning supplies and health care facility services is a must,” Staley said.
Staley said maintaining a stockpile of supplies is a must, and the department is focused on helping all areas of the health care system.
He reported the county purchased 83,695 N95 masks, 162,000 isolation masks, 36,000 isolation gowns and 90,000 boxes of gloves from the state warehouse.
The county also purchased 8,000 N95 masks, 10,000 KN95 masks, 62,000 masks and ordered 588,000 gloves using grant funding or funding from the county.
The county has sought help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“Our first FEMA submission was $254,130.63 on June 30. I’ve been instructed by FEMA and the state that that check should be cut to us in the next week, at the latest, we should have it,” Staley said.
He added, “They’ve approved everything. Right now it’s just going through the process of cutting the check and getting to us.”
Staley also said the department has submitted a $201,982.58 request to be included in the county’s CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund submission.
Emergency Medical Services Director Stephanie Givens said the department has experienced changes due to the pandemic.
Although the department is currently short 14 positions, it still keeps at least five ambulances on the roads.
Givens said there was a decrease in full-time employees, but part-time employees have stepped up to fill in and address the department’s needs.
Givens noted that all staff is certified, and there are currently people receiving training.
“We have four apprentices that are training to become certified basic EMTs, and then go through that process of moving up to paramedic,” Givens said.
Givens reported an increase in the number of calls fielded by the department.
The pandemic has resulted in EMS coming into close contact with people who test positive for the virus.
Givens reported that EMS has 1,227 COVID-19 related reports, and of those reports, 44.9% of them were positive cases transported by EMS.