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What do you do if you witness a medical emergency amid COVID-19?

(NBC15)
Published: May. 5, 2020 at 10:12 PM CDT
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Health officials are recommending putting a stop to mouth-to-mouth CPR because of the high risk of catching COVID-19.

Nearly 1,000 people go into cardiac arrest outside of the hospital every day.

If you're in public and you're first to the scene of a medical emergency, health officials said you can help, but think twice.

"Now in the COVID era we're just facing more risks," Che Stedman, Madison Fire Department assistant chief of medical affairs said.

Fire officials said first responders wear PPE and do CPR using hands only to reduce the risk and bystanders should follow the same guidance.

"If the person on the ground who is having cardiac arrest doesn't have a mask on and you don't have a mask on, you should be careful being closer than six feet," Stedman said.

Stedman said he's grateful when bystanders offer immediate help because seconds can save lives.

"There are certain people that are more capable of helping and will hopefully step up and take risks but we understand covid-19 is a deadly risk and we want people to be thoughtful about it," he said.

The American Heart Association issued guidelines saying if you're giving first aid to someone in need, make sure you have on a mask and cover the victim's nose or mouth with a cloth or mask.

"The chance that someone were to fall unconscious to COVID-19 would be pretty unusual," Jeffrey Pothof, UW-Health emergency medicine physician said. "More likely to other conditions most common being a heart attack."

Pothof said bystanders can help from a far without human contact.

"Talk to them, see if they're awake or not sleeping. Otherwise, another recommendation would be to think about getting first responder training so if you are in that situation, you'll be more prepared to help out a fellow community member," he said.

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