PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin addressed residents in a video on Tuesday, asking them to stay vigilant as COVID-19 cases surge and only call 911 when they're facing a "true emergency."
Cassin said as hospitals deal with the surge in cases, emergency wait times are "skyrocketing" across the community. He said as many hospitals are at or over capacity, some ambulances are holding patients at hospitals for hours because of a lack of beds and hospital staff.
"We’ve even got a documented case an ambulance waited with a patient on their stretcher at a hospital for 7.5 hours before they could turn that patient over to the ER staff because they were so overwhelmed at the time. We're starting to see that more and more every day, those times are getting longer and longer. We're trying to find ways to combat that and shorten those times," said Chief Cassin.
Cassin said the long wait times and lack of beds are causing an ambulance shortage across the county and leading to long wait times for 911 callers.
"As Pasco County Fire Chief, I'm asking every resident and visitor of Pasco County, and the bay area, to stay vigilant. Unvaccinated residents ages 12 and older should consider getting a COVID-19 vaccine, which is available through your physician, local pharmacy, retail outlet, and all urgent care centers," Cassin said. "If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fever, sore throat, or cough, contact your physician, urgent care center, pharmacy, or the Department of Health for testing, to help reduce the impact on area emergency departments."
Cassin is asking the community to help EMS agencies by utilizing walk-in clinics and urgent care centers unless they're facing a life-threatening illness or injury.
"Remember, 911 is only for true emergencies. For non-emergent issues, visit your doctor, walk-in clinic, or urgent care center, and let's all do our part to save the ambulances and ER visits for those who urgently need those services," Cassin said.
"If you’re having a heart attack, think you’re having a heart attack, think you're having a stroke, definitely 911 is the way to go. We want to get there quick," said Chief Cassin.