San Francisco

COVID-19 Causing Strain on San Francisco's 911 System: Officials

The San Francisco Fire Department is now asking the public not to dial 911 for minor questions or concerns.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The continuing surge of COVID-19 infections across the Bay Area and the country continues to put a strain on first responders.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed recently tweeted that 140 city fire department employees, 84 employees from the San Francisco Police Department and 122 Muni workers are not working because of infections or isolation from potential COVID-19 exposure.

Those absences come as more people are calling 911 for help with the current COVID-19 surge.

“We've been having about over 400 EMS calls a day in the city for the past several days," said San Francisco Fire Department Chief Jeanine Nicholson.

Nicholson added that's about 30 percent more calls than usual.

The San Francisco Fire Department is now asking the public not to dial 911 for minor questions or concerns.

“Please don't call 911 to ask for a COVID-19 test, or because you have a cold, or minor flu symptoms. We really want to keep our ambulances available for people having a heart attack or strokes,” said Nicholson said.

Nicholson said the department is able to fully staff all stations. But because of so many calls recently, paramedics are stretched very thin.

Nicholson added that she is hearing the same from departments across the Bay Area.

At Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, about 400 staff members are out because of COVID-19.

Hospital officials are also asking the public not to go to the emergency room for non-emergency situations.

“We're seeing more people looking for tests. We're seeing more people walking up with mild symptoms. And this is particularly a challenge now because of all the circumstances I just described earlier,” said Dr. Susan Ehrlich, CEO of the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

The high demand for testing is something members of the California National Guard are now helping with.

Soldiers were at a testing site in Antioch on Saturday, helping speed up the process.

Under Gov. Gavin Newsom's orders, the National Guard will be deployed to 50 more sites across the state, to help increase testing capacity.

Ehrlich said that they will take any help they can get by increasing COVID-19 testing capacity elsewhere. So, they can keep the public from trying to seek non-emergency services from places like hospital emergency rooms.

Contact Us