Coronavirus changed the game for Belmar First Aid

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BELMAR — The added complications of a coronavirus pandemic made this a challenging summer for the members of the Belmar First Aid Squad, their director said Tuesday.

The squad, with its six members, responded to between 500 and 600 calls over the course of the summer months alone. Fran Hines, director of emergency medical services in the borough, believes calls may top 1,000 by the end of the year.

Every call that the squad responded to this year had a threat of danger in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It’s always in the back of your head, on every call you go on and we pretty much treat every call we go on as a COVID call as far as we are concerned,” Mr. Hines said. Even if a subject is not showing noticeable symptoms, coughing, sneezing or a fever, there was still a chance they might be asymptomatic.

The constant threat meant that crews always had to wear their protective gear when responding to a call and decontaminating their gear when they can.

“It’s an added level of protection for us and there is always the concern that you are going to get exposed,” Mr. Hines said.

Early on in the pandemic, personal protective equipment was in short supply. Given the importance of having some shield against the virus, the first aid squad had to get equipment anyway they could.

“There was a big financial burden on us with personal protective equipment,” Mr. Hines said, adding that the crew did not receive a lot of equipment through the usual channels, governmental sources on the state and federal level.

What helped the crew immensely, he said, was donations from foundations and private individuals in the area.

“We were getting a lot of private donations, especially for masks,” he said.

An Irish dance group from Spring Lake, the Hutchinson family in Belmar and the Timothy Piazza foundation contributed to keep the squad supplied with face masks and plexiglass face shields.

“It was coming from the most unlikely sources, but they knew who was on the front lines of this thing, and that was us,” Mr. Hines said.

The crew got an early jump on summer, according to Mr. Hines, with nice weather and schools being closed due to COVID-19 caused summer tourists to come to Belmar earlier than usual.

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