Since Joe Larcheveque first began his career volunteering with Darien EMS-Post 53 in the 1980s when HIV was first a concern, he has had experience with many types of health crisis.

Yet, he said the coronavirus is more “challenging” than he has ever seen.

Larcheveque, who is now executive director at Post 53, spoke with The Darien Times about the current effect the virus has had on Post 53, and their response to it.

Contracting the virus

He said Post 53 is very fortunate that their staffing has not been badly affected by COVID-19. To date, there has only been one member who has tested positive for coronovirus.

“He is healthy and we hope to have him back soon,” he said.

There were several members of the EMT staff who were in contact with that individual.

“We had them quarantine at home for 14 days, which is the CDC recommendation,” Larcheveque said. “They are not exhibiting any symptoms that I’m aware of at this time.”

Post 53 has not had to extend their hours due to the pandemic.

“So far we have been very fortunate. Our staff is working regular shifts,” he said.

Comparison with prior viruses

The coronavirus is “very different” than other viruses Larcheveque said he has experienced in the past.

Going back to the Ebola and SARS scares several years ago, “there were a lot of preparations, but the spread was not significant,” he said.

The amount of spread and how the virus can pass from person two person so easily “makes this very unique and much more challenging than what I’ve seen in the past,” he said.

Post 53 has been proactive about keeping the spread of the virus under control in Darien, according to Larcheveque.

This is because they have prepared well, he said.

“We started early in Darien,” he said. “We paid attention from onset and made sure we had all the equipment on hand to protect our members, and continue to make sure that we can do that.”

Responding to a call

The police are the first responders to all calls to 9-11 in town.

“If it’s a life threatening condition, they can render life-saving care until the ambulance gets there,” Larcheveque said. “We come in only if they really need our help.”

When Post 53 needs to go inside a home, “Our supervisor will put all their PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] on. They will enter the house by themselves to limit the amount of exposure to the rest of the ambulance crew. They will give an evaluation and determine the best way to handle the situation.”

When on any call, the supervisor will initally not get close to a person.

“We ask qualifying questions, such as if they have shortness of breath and a cough,” Larcheveque said.

In cases where there is a chance someone may have COVID 19, they want to limit the number of people that come within six feet of the patient, “so we protect our first responders if we can,” Larcheveque said.

Post 53 will provide a mask to those patients who do not have one.

“We will ask them to wear a surgical mask, which will help prevent any respiratory droplets from coming out of their mouth,” he said.

“We are wearing all this PPE, and evaluating and testing and transporting people to the hospital,” he added. “So this way, even if we are not sure if the person has COVID-19, we are protected.”

Donations

Post 53 is currently in need of monetary donations because they are running out of supplies. To donate, visit post53.info/donate.

They are also in need of any amount of hand sanitizers and hand wipes to keep their members safe.

While they do have a supply of personal protective equipment and cleaning products at the moment, they want to make sure they don’t run out.

There is a box right outside their door, at 0 Ledge Road, for people to drop off donations.

“Answering the call”

A large number of the membership of Post 53 is made up of high school students “and they continue to answer the call every day,” he said.

In regard to the pandemic, Larcheveque said he is optimistic.

“I think that this will pass and we will learn a lot to make sure we are better prepared as a nation for these types of pandemics,” he said.

sfox@darientimes.com