San Francisco, California – The system in San Francisco is under pressure, and officials are asking residents to limit their 911 calls to serious medical emergencies only amid surging omicron cases.
Jeanine Nickolson, San Francisco’s fire chief, said that the number of requests for medical help to 911 has increased from 300-330 a day to more than 400 in the previous week.
“We are seeing a surge in 911 calls which is putting a strain on the system and what we are also seeing is many of our members off with COVID. So there is a supply and a demand issue,” Nickolson said.
“We are really urging people to only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies,” she continued. “Please don’t call 911 to ask for a COVID test or because you have a cold or minor flu symptoms. We really want to keep our ambulances available to people having a heart attack or strokes… It is the transport side of things that is really challenging for us right now.”
Nickolson spoke to reporters about her department, like the rest of the local community, has been severely impacted by the omicron pandemic.
“We have about 140 people off that are COVID positive right now,” the chief said.
Dr. Susan Ehrlich, the chief executive officer of Zuckerberg San Francisco General, was also present for the briefing session. She said that, similar to the 911 dispatch center, her emergency department was overburdened.
“We’ve never seen anything quite like this during the surges we’ve had so far. So please don’t call 911, don’t walk into an emergency department either because you want a COVID test or because you are having mild symptoms of COVID,” Dr. Susan Ehrlich said.
“Most cases of COVID are mild and you can stay home. If you have symptoms if you’re feeling sick, you should stay home, take care of yourself and try to stay away from other people as much as possible,” she added.
Officials in Contra Costa County made a similar appeal earlier in the week. The increase in the number of cases in the county has resulted in around 100 more calls per day than are generally received by 911.
“I think it is fair to say that there’s a bit of a perfect storm brewing here in terms of impacts on our health care system in general,” said Steve Hill with Contra Costa County Fire.