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'Wear your mask': Guilford County EMS workers are some of the frontline heroes keeping us safe this Thanksgiving

"It's hard sometimes being away from your family, but when you get to be here to help others in the community, it makes up for it," said one EMS worker.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Medical emergencies don't take a break just because it's Thanksgiving, which means frontline workers are also hard at work on the holiday.

WFMY News 2 spoke with frontline workers with Guilford County Emergency Medical Services on Thanksgiving Day 2020.

"It's hard sometimes being away from your family, but when you get to be here to help others in the community, it makes up for it," said Chelsea Wells, who was born and grew up in Wallburg, NC.

"We get to be with our work family, so that's nice," said Heather Williamson, who grew up in Julian, NC. "Calls are a little bit slower, or at least we hope so. It gives us some time to fellowship as a work family."

The other EMS workers who spoke with WFMY News 2 are Jasmine Pearce from the Raleigh area, Lauren Waites from Greensboro, and Connor Barr from Pfafftown. All of the paramedics and EMTs said they were used to working on holidays to keep the community safe.

The Guilford County EMS workers said that their department is fully-staffed on Thanksgiving to ensure that community members can be assisted in a medical emergency.

The crews had already responded to several calls on Thanksgiving morning at the time of the interview including a seizure call, several people falling at home, and a nosebleed patient.

"Watch where you step. Make sure you fully defrost your turkey before you put it in a fryer," one of the frontline EMS workers offered for safety advice.

Credit: Guilford County EMS

The coronavirus pandemic has added an extra layer of danger to their work.

"We've been doing temperature checks daily, health screenings daily. Everyone is masked up from the time we get out of our cars. We always report any signs or symptoms we are having," one EMS worker said. "Our administration has been doing a great job making sure we keep tallies we are running with COVID positive patients. We've been really careful here in Guilford County. Very thankful that we've all tried to stay healthy."

If you or your family members call 911 and need an ambulance for a medical emergency, the EMS workers say they understand it may be stressful, but they ask that you treat them with respect and wear a mask. They also ask that you let the 911 operator know if or anyone in the household has had COVID-19 symptoms so that the frontline workers can prepare.

"This year has been tough on everybody. I think that right now, more than ever, we need to come together as a community," one of the EMS workers said. "We are here to help you guys, and in the same token, you guys need to help us, give us some kindness and compassion."

Thanksgiving Day Dangers

Roughly 40,000 Americans end up in the emergency department on Thanksgiving day, according to data from the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission.  

The National Safety Council estimates 485 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period.

The top reasons for emergency room visits related to Thanksgiving include food poisoning, knife injuries, burns, overeating causing heartburn, alcohol-related injuries, and overexertion causing cardiac symptoms, according to ClinicalAdvisor.com.

The coronavirus pandemic is a Thanksgiving Day threat highlighted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They advise that people check travel restrictions beforehand, get a flu shot, wear a mask, stay at least 6 feet apart from others, wash hands frequently. 

The CDC also recommends hosting meals outdoors, limiting the number of guests, asking guests to bring their own food and utensils, and avoid high traffic areas like the kitchen.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is consistently the leading day for home cooking fires. The organization's data from 2018 showed a 250% increase in home cooking fires reporting on Thanksgiving compared to the daily average.