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Fire officials in AA County urge public to avoid ER, limit 911 calls for emergencies only amid COVID-19 surge

Fire officials in AA County urge public to avoid ER, limit 911 calls for emergencies only amid COVID-19 surge
Posted at 10:00 PM, Jan 07, 2022

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — Fire officials in Anne Arundel County are asking residents to avoid the ER for minor illnesses and to limit 911 calls to possible life-threatening conditions to ease the strain placed on health care providers amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“I think all of the fire departments and EMS providers in the state are to the point where they’re bending and trying not to break,” said Russ Davies, Battalion Chief at the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

Anne Arundel County is seeing a rise in hospitalizations like many areas across the state, which has led to longer wait times at the ER for patients and personnel. Davies said it’s impacting the department’s response times as well.

Currently, the county’s positivity rate is 30 percent, but ICU beds at area hospitals are nearly full or at capacity.

“We’re seeing wait times at the hospitals sometimes greater than three or four hours,” he said.

Anne Arundel County and Annapolis Fire Department are asking for the public’s help by urging them to use 911 only for emergencies.

“What we are asking for is to save 911 and to save trips to the hospitals for the true emergencies,” he said. “We’re talking about chest pains, strokes, child births, the things that require immediate medical care.”

Davies said the department is being stretched thin, but he said the public can help ease the burden.

“The last thing that we want is for somebody to call for help and us not have the resources to assist them,” he said.

The Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Fire Departments are seeking the community’s assistance in the following ways:

  • Avoid going to EDs for minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, and low-grade fevers. Instead, seek non-emergency care from primary care physicians or urgent care centers.
  • Do not go to an ED just to obtain a COVID-19 test. Instead, go to an approved COVID-19 testing site ( or use a home test kit.
  • Limit 9-1-1 EMS calls to possible life-threatening conditions such as:
  • Chest pains or persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Blueish lips or face
  • Severe pain that is new and doesn’t go away
  • Traumatic injury
  • Unconscious or altered mental status
  • New confusion or inability to arouse
  • Stroke
  • Overdose
  • Allergic reaction with swelling and/or respiratory difficulty
  • Seizure
  • Diabetic emergencies
  • Life-threatening mental health issues (e.g., suicidal)
  • Burns
  • Childbirth (active labor or complications)
  • Get vaccinated and/or receive the COVID-19 booster, and encourage others to do the same.
  • Help limit COVID-19 transmission by socially distancing, washing hands regularly, and wearing a mask.
  • Limit exposure to others, especially if there has been close contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or there are COVID-19 symptoms.