MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) — When first responders arrive at a scene, they may focus on the well being of the injured, but they are also concerned about their own health and safety. With the spread of the coronavirus, there are new protocols in place to help.

Marin County is following federal CDC guidelines. It starts with a new 911 script asking individuals if they have a fever or cough or have traveled abroad in the last 30 days.

“The dispatchers will let responding crews that there is a ‘screen positive’ patient and they’ll recommend that they put on appropriate personal protection gear,” said Marin County Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Dustin Ballard.

Novato Fire says they have already had a couple calls requiring the use of the new protections.

“We have a full body gown, we would don the whole thing. Full face shield, so that’s eye protection. And then we’ll take our normal precaution which would be rubber gloves,” said Novato firefighter Matthew Allmen.

The extra protection is used only on an as-needed basis. It take a moment to put on, but once fully suited up, the first responder is a bit safer.

“It’s a dangerous job and, in the back of our minds, we’re always thinking that we could bring something home. So we don’t want to do that,” said Novato Fire Captain Erich Mesenburg.

The county is issuing instruction cards to first responders detailing personal protective equipment guidelines, best practices to stay safe and additional screening questions. After each call, the ambulances are wiped with bleach.

“Right now, we are erring on the safe side and recommending full protective gear,” said Dr. Ballard.

He also noted that health officials still have a lot yet to learn about the coronavirus.

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