From March 1 to June 30 of this year, the Verona Rescue Squad (VRS) responded to 305 calls, down 30% from the same time period in 2019. That might sound like good news, but because of COVID-19, every call that the VRS has gone on was more expensive than calls last year.
Calls are also more time-consuming. Before COVID-19, the average VRS call took an hour. Now it is generally two hours because responders must put on a wide range of personal protective equipment first and, when the call is over, spend more time than they once did cleaning and disinfecting equipment and ambulances.
While the VRS has always used some protective gear, it was often limited to gloves. Now members need N95 masks, goggles, gowns, and shoe covers, and the extra protective gear costs the VRS $11 per responder for every call. There are a minimum of two squad members on every call, and sometimes more. The VRS also must buy surgical masks for every patient they transport regardless of whether the individual has COVID-19 symptoms, as well as wipes and disinfectant sprays.
To step up its already extensive cleaning procedures, the VRS bought a sanitizing machine for its rigs, at a cost of $700. The solution for the machine costs approximately $25 per gallon and one gallon will clean an ambulance only three times.
The extra cost of all this is taking a toll on the finances of the VRS, which is funded by donations from Verona residents and businesses. The squad is deferring spending on some things that it had intended to buy this year, but that may not be enough, especially if there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall. Squad members say they are grateful for the donations they have gotten to date, but want the public to know that they can donate to the VRS’ general fund or for protective gear by going online or by sending a check the Verona Rescue Squad at 12 Church Street.