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San Francisco Advises Resident To Not Name 911 Until For A Life-Threatening Emergency

Last weekend, the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management advised city residents not to call 911 unless it was a life-threatening medical emergency due to both the rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in of the region as well as medical emergencies, staff and city workers are stretched thin due to the number of medical workers remaining isolated at home due to exposure or testing positive for the virus.

Since late December, the number of COVID cases in California has skyrocketed, with most contracting the Omicron variant. While far less deadly than other variants, it has proven to be more vulnerable. While hospitalizations and deaths have declined, the number of new positive test “cases” each day continues to break records. The total number of new cases as of Monday statewide was 56,810.

Cities have seen some of the worst of these, with Los Angeles and San Diego a big contributor to the new daily case count. San Francisco has also shown high rates but has handled it in a very different way.

Last week, teachers and other school staff held a “sickout,” during which healthy educators stayed home to try to force implementation of additional COVID-19 measures at the city’s school district. As of Friday, Mayor London Breed was reporting that COVID-19 and COVID-19 precautions had forced hundreds of city workers to stay home, including over 400 emergency workers.

“We are still seeing staff due to COVID including: 184 SFPD members 140 SFFD members 122 Muni workers Nonetheless, we continue to provide the critical services our residents deserve,” Mayor Breed tweeted.

We are still seeing staff due to COVID including:
184 SFPD members
140 SFFD members
122 Muni workers

Despite this, we continue to provide the important services that our residents deserve. Thank you to all the frontline workers who are committed to Shifts to support our city.

— London Breed (@LondonBreed) January 7, 2022

Less than 24 hours later, however, the mayor’s pledge was quickly shattered by a tweet from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management urging citizens to only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies, largely due to a shortage of medical staff and is due to the need to protect those in need who remained on duty.

“Please do not call 911 to ask for a COVID-19 test or because you have a cold or mild flu symptoms,” San Francisco Fire Chief Jeannie Nichols said in a statement. “We’re keen to keep our ambulances available for people who are having a heart attack or stroke. The department has received about 400 911 calls across the city each day for the past few days — about 30% more calls than average.”

Similarly, a nurse at a San Francisco hospital on Monday told the Globe: “We’ve lost hundreds over the past few weeks to either having COVID19 or staying home as a precaution. We don’t know when these doctors and nurses will come back. We all have to get as much leeway now. We’re all nervous about it.”

With resources now strained and some already assigned, like the police force, which has been diversified in recent weeks to help deal with the ongoing crime wave, many San Francisco residents on Monday expressed growing concern that there were delays in procuring the necessary rescue services.

“It’s dangerous not to call an ambulance, except for life-threatening injuries,” Frank Ma, a former law enforcement officer who now works as a security consultant for businesses in San Francisco and peninsular cities, told the Globe on Monday. “How do people know if something isn’t threatening? Often it is not clear. It’s crazy that we’re at this point, but the city isn’t allowing everyone emergency service right now. It’s embarrassing.

While the 911 request is not mandatory, it is currently unknown how far any type of denial or enforcement could go.

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