La Plata County dispatchers and Colorado health officials are reminding residents not to call 911 for non-emergencies.
With the increased concern over COVID-19, people are calling 911 for reasons other than a medical emergency, including asking for general information about the virus.
“Do not call 911 if you are seeking general medical advice or wish to be tested for COVID-19,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a news release. “If you have COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), consider a telehealth visit or nurseline advice before seeking in-person care.”
The Durango-La Plata Emergency Communications Center is also experiencing 911 calls from people experiencing mild symptoms or with general questions about the virus, said Susanne Meyers, operations supervisor at the dispatch center.
“It’s much more than daily,” she said. “I don’t know how frequent it is, but it’s a handful of calls per shift per dispatcher, and that does take up time that they could be utilizing to do other emergency-type of things.”
A lot of the medial calls could be handled by a personal care physician or a call to Mercy Regional Medical Center, she said.
On the other hand, if residents are at a loss about who to call and they need help, they should feel OK with calling the non-emergency dispatch line at 385-2900 or 911, Meyers said.
“We are here to help citizens,” she said. “If that (calling 911) is your option, we’re going to be here to help.”
But the 911 system is not intended for minor injuries or general medical questions, according to the health department.
People can instead ask their primary care provider if they offer telehealth or call a nurseline. A list of nurselines can be found on the state health department’s website, covid19.colorado.gov/telehealth-nurselines-directory. People can also visit covid19.colorado.gov or call (303) 389-1687 for general questions about COVID.
The state health department is providing the following guidance to people experiencing symptoms of COVID-19:
For people with mild symptoms:Early on, symptoms may feel like a common cold, including a combination of cough, body aches, fatigue and chest tightness.
People who are not at high-risk of severe illness may not need to be evaluated in-person or tested for COVID-19. Not everyone with symptoms or who may have been exposed to COVID-19 will be tested right away.
People who have mild symptoms, including a fever, cough, shortness of breath, or suspect they were exposed but are not able to be immediately tested, should stay home and avoid contact with others.
Isolate yourself until:
You have had no fever for at least 72 hours (that’s three days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers) and other symptoms have improved (for example, when your cough or shortness of breath have improved) and at least seven days have passed since your symptoms first appeared.Use over-the-counter medication to treat mild symptoms. There is currently no specific treatment for COVID-19.For people with more serious symptoms, especially shortness of breath:Continue to self-isolate.Call your health care provider if your illness becomes more severe, especially if you are experiencing shortness of breath. Your provider may recommend you be tested for COVID-19.Consider a telehealth visit or nurseline advice before seeking in-person care. Ask your primary care provider if the office offers telehealth visits, or call one of Colorado’s nurselines. For people with severe symptoms: (severe shortness of breath or difficulty breathing)Call 911 and describe your symptoms to the dispatcher. Do not wait for a COVID-19 test to call 911 in the event of an emergency.Call 911 for:Symptoms of heart attack or stroke.Difficulty breathing.Choking.Difficulty speaking, walking, or seeing.Severe allergic reactions.Confusion, dizziness, or disorientation.Sudden, severe pain.For those whose symptoms are severe enough to require hospitalization, a positive or negative test result is important to determine which unit of the hospital should oversee the patient’s care. The state lab is prioritizing test results for high-risk individuals.
Some Colorado hospitals have the capability or are building the capability to test for COVID-19 in-house. This will allow hospitals to test patients and have results without having to send the samples to the state lab or a private lab.
While waiting for test results on patients who are exhibiting extreme respiratory symptoms that could be attributed to COVID-19, hospitals will follow CDC guidance to keep those patients isolated from the general population.