Community Paramedics Pivot to Testing, Outbreak Response During COVID-19

MFD Community Paramedicine Team
Community Paramedics (L-R) Amanda Englehart, Mindy Dessert,
Raena Glauvitz, Seth Sanders

A new partnership between the Madison Fire Department and Public Health Madison & Dane County (PHMDC) is boosting local response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new “Outbreak Response Team,” comprised of MFD Community Paramedics, aims to catch possible disease outbreaks before they spread further into our community. The program especially focuses on outbreaks in congregate living facilities such as nursing homes.

When a potential outbreak is identified, referrals are made by PHMDC to the MFD Community Paramedicine team. Community Paramedics then coordinate with the facility to administer COVID-19 tests to all residents and staff in the facility.

“People who live in congregate facilities have contact with staff and other people in the facility, so the number of contacts per case can be higher than average,” according to Karri Bartlett, Operations Chief for Public Health Madison & Dane County. “Going to the facility and providing testing and contact tracing on-site allows us to rapidly quarantine and isolate all contacts and cases, and reduce COVID-19 in those facilities.”

Outbreak testing has also given more people access to testing, including those who are homeless, uninsured, or cannot easily get to a clinic or the community testing facility at Alliant Energy Center.

Since its first outbreak tests in mid-July, the team has administered over 100 COVID-19 tests in communities across Dane County, including Madison, Sun Prairie, Monona, and Marshall. The opportunity comes at a time when much of their regular activities, involving at-home healthcare consultations with patients, have been put on hold.

“It felt nice for us because there was a moment where we started to feel like, ‘What can we do? How can we help?’” said Community Paramedic Mindy Dessert. “Now that it’s up and running, it feels really rewarding to be able to take some of the load off from the other people who have been doing so much of this.”

Through partnerships like these, Public Health officials have better data to inform their analysis and decision making around the novel coronavirus.

Stay up to date with the latest data, local orders, and more by visiting the PHMDC website.

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