ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. - Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin says don’t call 911 unless you or a loved one is dying.
Pasco County emergency responders have reached the point where they have to triage for life-and-death emergencies due to COVID-19.
Tuesday, Pasco Fire Rescue saw 280 calls – a record – and as of the late afternoon, most of them were medical.
"Currently we are seeing unprecedented call volume," Chief Scott Cassin said.
Pasco Fire Rescue is the only EMS system in the county and Chief Cassin says their call volume is up 30% due to the surge in COVID-19 cases last summer.
They are so stressed, in some cases, they are not sending ambulances, but fire trucks to help people because the ambulances are tied up.
The chief is asking people to only call 911 if it’s a true life-or-death emergency.
"It’s at a tipping point and we have a number of people who are using the 911 system for, really, things that are non-emergency type things It should be reserved for heart attacks, strokes, emergency vehicle accident," the chief said.
Cassin says the crisis in the healthcare and emergency response systems is being driven by the delta variant.
Many exhausted healthcare workers have left for other jobs, creating a lack of beds which means EMS personnel can't offload their patients fast enough, sometimes resorting to other measures.
"We will at least get a trained responder on scene and that could be via fire engine," Chief Cassin said.