First published in the April 8 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The number of calls to the South Pasadena Fire Department for COVID-related issues has dropped dramatically, according to Fire Chief Paul Riddle. In fact, there haven’t been any COVID calls for about a month.
“When the numbers start dropping in L.A. County, we monitor two numbers that kind of stand out to us. One of them is the infection rate,” he said. “When that starts to drop, our responses start to drop right along with it.”
Fire officials also look at hospitalizations, he said, adding that there are 287 hospitalizations in Los Angeles County currently.
Riddle said the county is back below 1% for infections and he said he did not think it’s gone that low for the past two years.
He said anytime paramedics go on a medical-related call, they use universal precautions, with N95 masks, gloves and eye protection. “We always assume that our patients could be infectious, and we take appropriate precautions,” he said.
South Pasadena has had 3,976 cases and 60 deaths since the pandemic hit, according to a report from the county this week.
When dispatchers send out paramedics on calls and they screen the caller, they refer to COVID-related calls as a “Sick2.”
“We haven’t had a Sick2 call in about a month,” Riddle said.
He said fire officials have, in the past, been able to predict spikes when variants are being reported, particularly overseas.
He said the Omicron variant was particularly difficult. “Omicron hit us pretty hard,” Riddle said. “We had a very high infection rate in L.A. County. I think it was, at one point, over 25%.”
At the height of the Omicron variant in South Pasadena, the department received about five COVID-related calls a day, he said.
He added that early in the pandemic in 2020, it was especially challenging for the department, because officials didn’t know what was happening.
“We simply didn’t know enough about the virus,” he said. With Omicron, they knew what was occurring and the protocols were more appropriate.