New York Daily News | April 5, 2020
By THOMAS TRACY and CLAYTON GUSE
New York City paramedics and emergency medical technicians must wear medical-grade face masks while treating any patient during the coronavirus outbreak, FDNY honchos have announced.
The FDNY last month said first responders should only wear N95 respirator masks while performing up-close “aerosol-generating” procedures like CPR, but remain unmasked during less critical jobs.
Now the front line workers must wear surgical masks during every call, and strap on a more protective N95 for close-up “proximity work.”
“We must now consider all patients, (including trauma call types) to be infected and all persons (even coworkers and family members) to have been exposed due to community spread,” said a Saturday memo distributed to FDNY EMS staff.
The change came one week after Local 2507 president Oren Barzilay, who represents FDNY paramedics, EMTS and inspectors, wrote a letter to Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro bemoaning mask rules that were relaxed last month.
“This order, if complied with, will expose our first responders to imminent risk to safety and health,” Barzilay wrote of the loosened FDNY guidelines. “This order and other similar orders are being produced and issued by chiefs that are far removed from these medical scenes and will not be adversely affected.”
The union advised its members to ignore their bosses and wear N95 masks on the job whenever possible, which helped spark the FDNY’s change of course.
Mayor de Blasio on Thursday advised all New Yorkers to wear a face covering whenever they go outside, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed with a similar directive on Friday.
But now the problem for rank-and-file paramedics and EMTs isn’t the guidelines around masks — it’s whether or not the equipment is available.
“I used 10 N95 masks today (Sunday) because I was on 10 cardiac arrests,” said Anthony Almojera, a paramedic and vice president of EMS Officers Union Local 3621. “I’m told they got a new shipment of masks that will last us a week, but they’re already running out at some stations.”