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Sault paramedics pull back from patients over coronavirus fears

So far, COVID-19 has claimed 2,129 lives
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SAULT STE. MARIE — Paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie are standing a few feet back from patients initially and asking some pointed questions related to the novel coronavirus afflicting China.

"Everybody's being screened in the field," Robert Rushworth, local chief of land ambulance emergency medical services, told a meeting Thursday of District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSMSSAB).

Although most DSSMSSAB staff reports are presented in written form, Rushworth delivered a verbal update on the COVID-19 virus because the situation "is evolving so fast I couldn't have put it on paper a week a ahead and have any accuracy."

"It's big. It's scary. It's newsworthy right now," the ambulance chief said. "It's hard to say where it's going."

"There are people that live with infected people that don't pick it up. There are people that are infected that don't show signs or symptoms."

"It's changing. Nothing I could put down on paper would mean anything tomorrow."

Rushworth said all patients contacted by local paramedics are being asked whether they have a cough or a fever, and whether they've had any contact with mainland China and the city of Wuhan, the virus's epicentre.

Patients shouldn't be surprised if answers to these question cause responders to don personal protective equipment, Rushworth told SooToday.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Thursday that 75,748 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed worldwide, including 548 new ones.

China has had 74,675 of those cases, with 2,121 deaths.

Outside of China, 1,073 cases have been confirmed in 26 countries with eight deaths.

More from WHO's Thursday update:

  • one new country (Islamic Republic of Iran) reported cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours
  • China has revised their guidance on case classification for COVID-19, removing the classification of 'clinically diagnosed' previously used for Hubei province, and retaining only 'suspected' and 'confirmed' for all areas, the latter requiring laboratory confirmation. Some previously reported 'clinically diagnosed' cases are thus expected to be discarded over the coming days as laboratory testing is conducted and some are found to be COVID-19-negative.
  • In early January, following the notification of the occurrence of cases of COVID-19 among travelers from Wuhan China, WHO established a global surveillance system to collect and organize essential information to describe and monitor COVID-19. All WHO regions have implemented the reporting of COVID-19 cases either through existing or newly-established data collection systems.



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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans six decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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