San Bernardino County sees alarming increase in 911 calls, hospital visits due to pandemic

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across Southern California with the onset of flu season, San Bernardino County first responders are starting to see a spike in emergency calls and hospital visits, prompting officials to adopt a new emergency services protocol.

The alarming trend is “causing a strain on local area hospitals within San Bernardino County,” the county’s Emergency Medical Services agency announced in a news release Friday.

To lessen the strain on the EMS system and local hospital resources, the county’s medical director has directed the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency to implement a county-wide “Assess and Refer” policy, according to the news release.

Essentially, people who call 911 and are transported by emergency ambulance are not guaranteed a COVID-19 test or a “frontline spot” in an emergency room, the county said.

“All patients transported to local area hospitals are triaged based on the severity of the injury and signs and symptoms,” the release states.

“Despite aggressive efforts to combat the pandemic, our county — like many others around the state — has experienced an undeniable spike in COVID-19 infections,” County Public Health Director Corwin Porter said in a statement Wednesday, urging residents to practice caution ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. “A top priority is ensuring that our hospitals and ICU units are not overrun with new patients.”

Dr. Troy Pennington, an emergency care physician at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, said in a statement Wednesday that three hospitals in San Bernardino County have “COVID-19 census levels higher than the July peak,” adding that health officials expected an increase in coronavirus cases during the fall season.

“The county anticipated that the combination of fall holidays and events would bring a similar condition as the events leading up to the July surge,” Pennington said. “In anticipation, the County acquired a portable facility that can house dozens of patients.”

To reduce the number of incoming 911 calls, the county recommends residents use the following guide before making a 911 call:

People who are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, however, shouldn’t hesitate to call 911. For questions and other general information, people can call the San Bernardino County Public Information Line at 909-387-3911 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

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