FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Amid a spike in cases of RSV, COVID-19 and the flu, the Fresno County Department of Public Health (FCDPH) wants residents to only call 911 when they are experiencing a life or limb-threatening emergency.

This reminder and reimplementation of EMS Assess and Refer Policy is due to a sharp rise in respiratory illness caused by many circulating viruses including the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), the flu, and COVID-19 in Fresno County. Regional hospitals are also being challenged by traumas and other medical issues.

This has stretched local hospital resources for adults and children, resulting in them being over capacity and their emergency rooms being close to what they call “disaster levels”.

This is why the FCDPH and the Central California Emergency Medical Services Agency (CCEMSA) are urging the public to avoid calling for an ambulance and using the hospital emergency rooms if they don’t have a medical emergency. Instead contact their primary care physician, an urgent care clinic, or use telehealth.

“The County has implemented the Assess and Refer Policy to slow down the surge of non-emergency patients at hospital emergency departments. Ambulances will respond and assess patients. If it is determined that the patient is stable, and does not require emergent transport, the ambulance personnel will provide an appropriate alternate recommendation and not transport the patient by ambulance,” says Dan Lynch, EMS Director.

The FCDPH says that if an individual has an emergency condition, always call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. But they warn the public to be prepared to expect delays in ambulance response to non-emergent medical problems and to expect significant delays if seeking non-emergency care at the hospital emergency room.

Here are some of the signs where the public should seek immediate medical attention according to the health department:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Gray or blue color to tongue, lips, or skin
  • Inability to wake or stay awake