PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — COVID-19 vaccines are now in Oregon and though that is a good step, we’ve still got a long way to go in the pandemic. First responders are still overwhelmed and expect that to continue as the COVID case numbers surge.

Resources are stretched thin and first responders are working exceptionally long hours to keep up with the demand.

When the pandemic began, Metro West Ambulance officials said they saw a drop in calls because people were afraid to call 911 or go to a health care facility. That’s not the case any more. They’re back at full volume and are now transporting more patients between facilities as they fill up because of the surge in cases.

First responders with Metro West Ambulance, December 14, 2020 (KOIN)

“I certainly cannot reinforce strongly enough that we are in the thick of it right now and each of the surges that we’ve had over the last several months really pale in comparison to where things are right now,” said Shawn Baird, the vice president of rural services for Metro West Ambulance.

Baird said they’ve also seen an increase in the number of patients in ther mobile integrated health program, which allows people to get care at home instead of being in the hospital.

They also worked with OHA to do mobile COVID testing in areas that don’t have access to traditional care, he said, and they plan to do the same with vaccines when they become available.

Baird said it’s devastating to watch someone die from COVID-19 and then see people in the public not taking it seriously or following the health guidelines.