By: Adolfo Carrion and Asha Mckenzie | March 14, 2023
An EMT and a paramedic sat down with News 12’s Asha McKenzie to reflect on their line of work during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as New York reflects on the three-year anniversary of the first reported COVID-19 death in New York City.
While most people were staying in their homes to stay safe from the virus, EMT Shakira Tate was focused on saving lives.
“Cardiac arrest, you see those once in a while, maybe once or twice a month. During COVID, you were seeing those six to eight times a day,” said Tate.
Tate has worked as an EMT for a decade but says no amount of preparation could have readied anyone for the mental toll of responding to the over 7,000 daily calls that EMS workers responded to citywide during the peak of COVID-19.
The stress led to multiple suicides, including one of EMT John Mondello, a rookie Bronx EMT who was on his third month on the job.
“There was a lot of stress on everyone,” said Tate. “In my direct station there were a few [suicides]. It became numb because it became so frequent.”
Elizabeth Ferrin was a rookie paramedic going through training back in 2020. When the pandemic came hit, she says her class was cut short by six to seven weeks because her and her classmates were needed on the front lines.
“We were limited on resources,” said Ferrin. “We just tried to take precautions to make us safe and keep our families safe. Doing our best to save patients.”
Three years later, Tate and Ferrin say that relying on their coworkers at their stations is what helped them get through the pandemic, adding that the department is now highlighting mental health resources for its employees more than ever before.