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San Francisco Tells Citizens to Avoid Non-Urgent 911 Calls

The latest surge in COVID-19 cases has put a big strain on both public safety and health services in San Francisco. As a result, officials only want residents to call 911 if there’s a clear life-threatening emergency.

911 Dispatch
(TNS) — Officials in San Francisco are asking residents to limit 911 calls and hospital emergency room visits as the city grapples with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Calls to 911 dispatchers are averaging 400 a day, a 30% spike over the normal daily average of 300 to 330 calls, Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson told KRON.

“Please don’t call 911 to ask for a COVID-19 test, or because you have a cold or minor flu symptoms,” Nicholson told KNTV. “We really want to keep our ambulances available for people having a heart attack or strokes.”

About 10% of the fire department’s workforce — about 140 employees — are out with COVID-19 themselves, she told The San Francisco Chronicle. The extra calls for non-emergencies are “putting a strain on the system.”

“Most COVID cases are mild & can be treated at home,” the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised on Twitter. “Look for emergency COVID warning signs but only call 911 or go to the emergency dept. for life-threatening medical emergencies.”

Dr. Susan Ehrlich, chief executive officer at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, told KRON that hospital emergency rooms are having the same problems.

“People are coming to emergency departments seeking testing because I think the demand is high and in some circumstances the supply is low,” Ehrlich said.

About 400 employees at the hospital are off work with COVID-19 or quarantines after close contact with an infected person, KTNV reported.

That’s about 10% of the hospital workforce, Ehrlich told The San Francisco Chronicle.

“We’ve never seen anything quite like this during the surges we’ve had so far,” Ehrlich told the publication. “Every emergency department, every hospital in the city is impacted by the current omicron surge.”

The omicron variant now makes up 95% of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States, the CDC reported Sunday, Jan. 1.

The variant seems to produce less severe symptoms but spreads more rapidly than other versions of the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

San Francisco averaged more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases per day for the 7 days before Jan. 1, the city reported. As of Jan. 5, 135 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the city.

More than 305 million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide with more than 5.4 million deaths as of Jan. 9, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has had more than 59 million confirmed cases with more than 837,000 deaths.

©2022 The Sacramento Bee, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.