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COVID-19: Should you call 9-1-1 or your Primary Care Provider?

By | Ready Marine Corps | April 9, 2020


COVID-19 & 911 FlyerLife during the COVID-19 pandemic has created new social, economic, and health challenges. While there is plenty of information, it can be difficult to separate facts from fear. You may be questioning if your symptoms are signs of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or simply seasonal allergies. To avoid overtaxing emergency resources, know when to call 9-1-1 and when to call your primary care provider.

If you are experiencing mild symptoms such as a low fever and cough, have been exposed to someone who is under evaluation for or has contracted COVID-19, or have traveled to an area that has widespread or ongoing community spread, do not walk into a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital because you may inadvertently expose vulnerable community members to the virus. Instead, those with TRICARE should call the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line to speak with a registered nurse who will assess your symptoms. Keep in mind, MHS is experiencing a high volume of calls so wait times may be long. You can also contact your primary care provider who may be able to perform a virtual exam, or visit your state or local health department website for more information.

If you develop emergency warning signs for COVID-19, seek medical attention immediately. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency warning signs include:   

  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath,
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest,
  • new confusion or inability to rouse or awaken, and
  • bluish lips or face.

This list is not exhaustive, so consult with your medical provider if you have questions. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

If You Call 9-1-1

Public Safety Telecommunicators (PST), also known as emergency dispatchers, are standing by to connect you with the resources you need. During the call, the PST may ask you questions about your symptoms or your recent travels. Be patient! Help is on the way. These questions will help first responders treat you efficiently and effectively while also protecting themselves and others.

Potential questions may include:

  • Have you recently traveled from an COVID-19 affected area?
  • Have you been in close contact with someone with COVID-19?

Other Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving and changing, which creates uncertainty. This, coupled with social distancing, may cause feelings of anxiety or loneliness. If you’re not sure what to make of these new circumstances, you’re not alone. Take advantage of wellness resources, such as the Crisis Text Line to help you cope with anxiety, loneliness, and depression. To connect with a counselor, text HELLO to 741741.

Also, social distancing doesn’t mean antisocial! Continue to connect with family and friends virtually and over the phone. You can also support your personal wellness by maintaining a healthy diet, continuing your usual sleep routine, and finding ways to exercise at home. Access the Barracks Room Fitness program by FitForce for at-home workouts.

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, April 12-18, is an opportunity to share our appreciation for the 9-1-1 telecommunicators who calmly answer the call during our moments of need. Share your thanks on social media using #NPSTW. Tag @ReadyUSMC on Twitter, and we’ll share your posts!



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