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County launches paramedic program for those recovering COVID-19

SALISBURY — By using coronavirus relief funding, county government has launched a COVID-19 community paramedic program that will assist people who are recovering.

Officially approved by Rowan County Commissioners Aug. 4, the program is expected to transition existing paramedics to COVID-19-focused work for four months. People can sign up for the program while being contacted by the Rowan County Health Department for contact tracing and follow-up calls. Positive patients will be offered the ability to opt in to the program.

Interim Emergency Services Chief Allen Cress says the county may also receive referrals from the Salisbury VA or Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

After an initial assessment and evaluation, which will be free, the paramedics will then schedule future visits based on individual needs. If EMS transport is needed as a result of an evaluation, participants will be billed. COVID-19 testing may be provided to other people living inside of the participants home.

County officials say the paramedics will wear plain clothes and arrive in unmarked cars to avoid any stigma about a COVID-19 diagnosis.

“We’re trying to protect the confidentiality for the person as much as we can,” Cress said. “We don’t want people to wonder why a Rowan County Emergency Services truck is coming back to someone’s house.”

For some, the follow-up services may be as simple as retrieving medication, Cress said. A memo about the program also states the paramedics also will “engage in individual and family outreach and education.”

The county says the paramedics will not conduct hospital in-patients or congregate care facility visits. But they may act as a resource for those facilities and follow up with patients discharged from those facilities.

The COVID-19 Community Paramedic Program’s services will end for participants after it’s been at least 10 days since symptoms began and the person has been fever-free for 24 hours.

Cress said the county’s hope is that there’s a significant enough need for the program that it must be extended past December, when funding is scheduled to end, saying that “I think anything we can do when they’re having this affliction would be something we need to do.” He said paramedics working in the program will be existing county staff.

The program will use $112,500 in coronavirus relief funds and have a total cost of $295,724. A breakdown of costs, however, states that the county will submit equipment costs — a significant portion of the overage — for FEMA reimbursement.

For more information about the program, email ccp@rowancountync.gov or call 980-432-1557

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