‘It’s been crazy’: Paramedic reflects 2 years after COVID-19 declared a pandemic

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — It’s been two years since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Mecklenburg County on March 12, 2020. Two years to the day since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Two years since our healthcare workers have been on the front lines of the pandemic.

In the spring of 2020, a paramedic shared a photo of deep lines on her face that her face mask had left. Today, Casey Jordan still continues to answer 911 calls.

Jordan says she still can’t get rid of the mask marks. Channel 9′s Gina Esposito first spoke with her in April 2020 after she posted that photo. As a paramedic with Mecklenburg EMS, she was wearing a mask constantly and transporting one COVID patient after another.

“We had a patient who didn’t think they were as sick as they were, and we got there and they were straight to the ICU from the emergency room,” Jordan recalled.

Through the ups and downs of the pandemic, Jordan said it is harder now doing the job with fewer people. The agency is battling a critical staffing shortage -- it’s short 67 full-time field positions.

“It’s been crazy. Frustrating. I’m tired like every day now,” Jordan said. “It’s just, you know, we’ve been getting our butts handed to us at work. It’s busy all the time. We had to call in FEMA for help.”

Through all this, Esposito asked Jordan why she’s still here, responding to 911 calls.

“Honestly, I love what I do,” Jordan said. “For as much as I felt like I was burnt out the last two years, I really love what I do.”

Leaning on that positivity, Jordan said she’s finally found a work-life balance.

“I’ve been working really focusing on my health and my downtime. Because for a while, I forgot what that was like,” she said. “I would spend my entire time sleeping when I was off.”

Jordan said one way you can take the stress off EMS workers is to reserve 911 for emergencies.

Jordan is part of a pilot program where she’s able to connect patients directly to an ER doctor, who could help a patient over the phone instead of requiring transport.

“That’s another layer that we can add to help the community without exhausting our resources,” she said. “It always feels good to know I helped somebody.”

Jordan said some EMS agencies in the area are offering big sign-on bonuses to try and recruit EMTs and paramedics. It’s why MEDIC is hoping to secure funds so it can offer monetary incentives to recruits and retention bonuses to current employees. Channel 9 has learned MEDIC’s request for American Rescue Plan Act money from the county is still pending.

(WATCH BELOW: Former local lawmaker opens up about battle with ‘long-haul’ COVID-19)

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