By HALEY YAMADA, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — With new signs the highly contagious variant of COVID-19 will continue to spread, paramedics in hard-hit Southern California say they don’t think strained hospitals can take much more.
“It’s almost like a war zone out here,” said Ismael Villegas, an emergency medical technician with Care Ambulance Service. “There’s multiple patients in rooms. I went inside the hospital; there’s blood on the floor because they don’t even have a chance to clean it yet, just because there’s so much going on.”
One Los Angeles EMT told ABC News he waited 17 hours on Tuesday with a semi-critical patient in his ambulance before a bed became available. Brandon Gray said he spent much of that time scrambling to find oxygen to keep refiling his rig’s tank.
With such long wait times once they arrive at hospitals in the region, that’s a problem many EMTs are running into. Gray’s crew member, Megan Griffin, explained how she had to put two patients on the same oxygen flow at the same time.
“Resources are really low,” said Griffin. “That was the only option.”
For the first time since the pandemic began, more than 4,000 deaths were confirmed in the U.S. over just the last 24 hours.
The highly contagious variant of the virus that was first identified in the U.K. has now been found in eight states, including Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Texas on Thursday.
“This variant has the potential to throw jet fuel on an already dangerous situation,” said Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County, Texas, who leads coronavirus response in the county that includes Houston.
The EMT crews, who have been working around the clock, told ABC News that they are exhausted and feel helpless.
“I saw a beautiful 95-year-old woman who was in pain lying in the back of an ambulance for 12 hours,” said Bill Weston, the director of operations for Care Ambulance. “There was absolutely nothing we could do to get her into that hospital because there was no more room in the hospital.”
In Weston’s more than 30-year career in EMS, he’s been deployed to Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, but he said what’s happening right now in Los Angeles County “is by far the worst disaster I’ve ever been involved in.”
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