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San Francisco overwhelmed by 911 COVID-19 calls

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The COVID-19 surge continues to affect medical services, but this time officials say they are being showered with non-urgent calls.

The San Francisco Fire Department says they have seen a significant increase in 911 calls for minor COVID symptoms or simply a test.

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The heads of the ambulance service ask that you only call 911 in a life-threatening emergency.

In the past few days, the call volume has increased by about 20 to 25 percent, and with their own employees suffering from COVID, there is a supply and demand problem.

“Please do not go to an emergency room for a test,” said one officer.

Health authorities warn people not to overwhelm the system.

They say they have seen an increase in 911 calls and emergency room visits for COVID tests and mild cold, flu, or COVID symptoms.

“We have received over 400 emergency calls a day in the city in the last few days – the number is usually between 300 and 330,” said SFFD chief Jeanine Nicholson.

Zuberberg General Hospital manager, Doctor Susan Ehrlich, says that being the only level 1 trauma center in town, they’re always very busy, but they’ve never seen anything like it.

“People come to the emergency room to have tests because I think the demand is high and the supply may be low,” said Ehrlich.

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Both EMS and Zuckerberg General Hospital see about 10 percent of their employees because of a close encounter with COVID or under quarantine.

You also have other people on vacation, on personal days, or because of other illnesses.

Nicholson said they are struggling to keep up with the additional needs.

“Over a third of our workforce now work mandatory overtime,” said Nicholson.

Health officials want to remind people that most COVID cases are mild and can be safely treated at home.

They want to relieve the system so that they can better help people who urgently need medical help.

“We are already in difficult waters and we really don’t want it to get any worse.”

Health officials say this isn’t just a San Francisco problem.

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They say emergency medical systems across the state and across the country are seeing similar increases in call volume for the same non-urgent requests.

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