By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
The Carter County emergency ambulance service has been hard hit by the COVID crisis. In addition to COVID protocols at area hospitals slowing their response time, ambulance staff are also taking extra time to sanitize trucks between runs to prevent the spread of the virus between patients.
Even with those precautions, and staff wearing masks and gloves on every run, the service had seven staff members test positive for COVID over the last couple of months. EAS Director Rick Loperfido told the emergency ambulance board, during their December meeting, that five of those individuals were off for ten days before being released to return to work, and one was off for 20 days before they were allowed to return to work. The seventh individual had only recently been diagnosed at the time of the December meeting, but – like the others – their time off from work was expected to add to overtime costs for the service.
The ambulance service will recoup some of those overtime related expenses, however, now that state CARES money has been released for them.
In a special meeting on December 30, the Carter County fiscal court moved to approve the dispersal of $309,017.13 in CARES funds from the state to cover the ambulance service overtime. While the county had not received the money from the state yet at the time of the meeting, the overtime costs for the service had been approved by the state and would be paid in full, judge executive Mike Malone told the court.
The court moved to approve allowing Malone’s office to write a check to the ambulance service for the entire amount when it came in.
The court also approved a request to pay Messer Electrical $618 for the cost of wiring the lighting on the new helipad in Grayson for the ambulance service. When a location was chosen for a helipad in or near Olive Hill the court would seek approval to cover any wiring related costs for lighting that helipad as well.
In other COVID related news Malone and the court discussed the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the county. While there are no hospitals in the county, Malone noted that vaccines would be distributed to nursing homes in the county as part of the first round of vaccines distributed throughout the state. He also said that, once medical staff, first responders and teachers were vaccinated, he encouraged county staff to take the vaccine.
“I think we should all take the vaccine as soon as (it’s available),” Malone said.
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