Vermillion first responders prepare their teams for COVID-19 vaccine

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VERMILLION, S.D. (KCAU) — The pandemic has put a strain on fire departments across the U.S., stretching resources thin when it comes to call volume, but the COVID-19 vaccine making it’s way to more people is providing a beacon of hope.

COVID-19 has changed the way firefighters and EMS workers respond to a call.

“On patients that have a high COVID suspicion it usually adds about 4-5 minutes, you know, it’s a lot of stuff to put on so it takes some time to put on and put off,” said Joel Stroman, an EMS worker on the Vermillion Fire Department.

On top of that, there’s the strain on the 50-plus volunteer staff members who fall into the high-risk category.

“You know, we’ve had some staff that have chosen to not take some calls during the worst part, whether that was because they had older family members that had medical problems or they themselves had medical problems and didn’t want to risk that exposure,” said Fire Chief Matthew Callahan, of the Vermillion Fire EMS Department.

That caused other members, like Stroman, to take on extra duties.

“I picked up a lot of extra shifts so there were times in a pay period where I would have over 200 hours of on-call hours,” said Stroman.

As a frontline worker, Stroman is one of many Vermillion Fire and EMS members on the department that has received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I got it, and I’ll be getting the second one in a couple of days, so I’m in support of getting the vaccine so we can get back to a normal,” said Stroman.

“We’re going through the vaccine process, still continuing our daily increased cleaning, increased PPE, and that’s really not going to go away. Even though we get the vaccine, we are going to continue waring the PPE that we are wearing because even though we get vaccinated, the general population won’t get vaccinated until the end of 2021 probably,” said Callahan.

Heading into the new year, Fire Chief Callahan says more people in Vermillion are stepping-up to help.

“We just hired on a new batch of recruits that are going to start next week and then were also going to start an EMS class, and I’m pretty sure that is already full so you know, really, our numbers are sitting pretty good right now,” said Callahan.

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