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Overwhelmed, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Fire Departments ask for public help Saturday

Stock Photo: No Palm Trees in AAC--yet--
  • Non-life threatening emergency room waits may exceed 24 hours

  • Currently, 30 out of every 100 COVID-19 test in Anne Arundel are coming back positive

Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Fire Departments ask for public help Saturday, January 8, in the face of “overwhelming” COVID-19 calls

Local fire departments including the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County fire departments, are looking for residents’ help in limiting calls to emergency medical services for only true life-threatening medical emergencies, as both local ambulances and hospitals are being overwhelmed with calls during the Omicron COVID-19 surge.

“We really want those that have a true emergency to call 911--anything that may be life threatening,” said Captain Bud Zapata with the Annapolis Fire Department on Saturday afternoon. “Our units in the city of Annapolis are overwhelmed with calls due to this COVID-19 surge. This COVID-19 surge has definitely had an impact nationwide.”

Zapata said that illnesses that include common symptoms or even bone fractures would be better served by going to an urgent care or your primary care physician.

Although first responders, such as fire department personnel are expected to arrive quickly at the site of an emergency, ambulances may be delayed because of the backups at local hospitals caused by the surge. When ambulance patients can not be served by local hospitals effectively, they may be rerouted to hospitals out of the area.

“I can tell you we are continuing to maintain our staffing levels,” Zapata said. “We’re able to continue to respond.”

On Friday both the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County fire departments issued a joint press release, asking for the public’s help:

“COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm the region’s frontline health care providers and our health care system as a whole," the statement read. “Increased numbers of hospitalizations have led to longer patient wait times in the area’s emergency departments (ED), as well as a shortage of available staffed beds in hospitals.

"Healthcare facilities are being required to triage patients as they arrive to ensure the sickest receive treatment first. In some cases, ED patients with non-life-threatening emergencies may wait for extended periods, some exceeding 24 hours. Calling 9-1-1 for an ambulance does not guarantee faster care in the ED.”

COVID-19 infections continue to spread rapidly throughout Maryland. According to data from the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, the COVID positivity rate in the county has reached 30.02% resulting in a 91.9% Intensive Care Unit occupancy rate.

Positivity rate is generally understood as the number of positive COVID-19 tests confirmed out of all the tests conducted. So, currently, 30 out of every 100 tests conducted are coming back positive for the coronavirus in Anne Arundel County.


“Our members continue to work hard, serving through the challenges of the pandemic, but we need the community to do their part," said Anne Arundel County Fire Chief Trisha Wolford in Friday’s statement.

"It is important to use our EMS services responsibly and only when necessary, and to expect long wait times once you arrive at the hospital," she continued.

The Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Fire Departments are seeking the community’s assistance in the following ways:

  • Avoid going to EDs for minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, and low-grade fevers. Instead, seek non-emergency care from primary care physicians or urgent care centers.

  • Do not go to an Emergency Department just to obtain a COVID-19 test. Instead, go to an approved COVID-19 testing site ( or use a home test kit.

  • Limit 9-1-1 EMS calls to possible life-threatening conditions such as:

  1. Chest pains or persistent pain or pressure in the chest

  2. Trouble breathing or shortness of breath

  3. Blueish lips or face

  4. Severe pain that is new and doesn’t go away

  5. Traumatic injury

  6. Unconscious or altered mental status

  7. New confusion or inability to arouse

  8. Stroke

  9. Overdose

  10. Allergic reaction with swelling and/or respiratory difficulty

  11. Seizure

  12. Diabetic emergencies

  13. Life-threatening mental health issues (e.g., suicidal)

  14. Burns

  15. Childbirth (active labor or complications)


  • Get vaccinated and/or receive the COVID-19 booster, and encourage others to do the same.

  • Help limit COVID-19 transmission by socially distancing, washing hands regularly, and wearing a mask.

  • Limit exposure to others, especially if there has been close contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or there are COVID-19 symptoms.

Calls to Anne Arundel Medical Center and Baltimore Washington Medical Center did not result in additional information for this story by the time of publication.

--from interview and press release

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