The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending ambulance teams to Maine hospitals to help with non-emergency transportation needs as the U.S. starts to confront the new omicron variant, President Joe Biden’s administration announced Tuesday.
It came as Maine reported a record day of hospitalizations and the virus continues its aggressive spread in some of the state’s least-vaccinated counties. The first cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant were also reported in Penobscot County on Friday, signaling further challenges to the state’s hospital systems.
“FEMA will deploy hundreds of ambulances and EMS crews so that if one hospital fills up, we can transport patients to beds elsewhere,” Biden said during his address. “This week we’ll send dozens of ambulances to New York and Maine because COVID is spreading so rapidly to help transport patients.”
The eight ambulances — along with associated personnel — will help transport patients among facilities with open beds, Maine officials said. Teams who are not actively transporting patients will help support emergency departments with COVID-19 patients. However, further details about the teams such as their arrival are still pending.
The hospitals that will host the teams are Maine Medical Center, Southern Maine Health Care, Franklin Memorial Hospital, Mid Coast Hospital, Central Maine Medical Center, MaineGeneral Medical Center, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital.
“These federal ambulance teams will help us transport patients to ensure they receive the care that best meets their needs and increase our overall hospital capacity,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah. “We look forward to receiving further details from the federal government about expanding access to COVID-19 testing and vaccination, which are critical to stemming this surge.”
Gov. Janet Mills’ administration also requested federal monoclonal antibody clinical teams that would complement the support of the Maine National Guard, which Mills activated earlier this month. That request is pending, but a request for additional doses of monoclonal antibodies was approved Tuesday, officials said.