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EMS sees an increase in COVID-19 related calls in East Texas

UT Health's EMS call center is seeing a 20% increase in calls related to COVID symptoms and a 5-10% increase in overall calls.

TYLER, Texas — COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Texas, and locally, EMS is feeling the strain with more calls related to COVID symptoms. 

"What keeps me up at night is you know, keeping our employees safe, keeping the public safe and answering all these calls. Our crews are exposed to COVID patient after COVID patient," John Smith with UT Health EMS said. 

At UT Health's EMS call center they're seeing around a 20% increase in calls related to COVID symptoms and a 5-10% increase in overall calls. 

"The amount of call volume, the lack of hospital beds, the lack of ER beds, it's all putting a strain on the system," Smith added.  

And with more calls come with more people in our hospitals. 

Division Chief Medical Officer for UT Health Tom Cummins is expecting to see more patients as kids return to school, especially with no mask mandates in East Texas schools.   

"I fully anticipate large numbers of sick children, as well as sick adults, because those kids are going to take it home to mom and dad or grandma and grandpa," Cummins said. 

This comes at a time with few ICU beds available in the region. 

UT health spent the weekend with one bed available at most. 

Plus, Cummins says any children who become severely sick with COVID don't have a place to be treated in East Texas.

"Any really sick child that comes to our facilities we already have historically been transferring to other places," Cummins said.