C-GCC alumnus serves on front lines of local Covid-19 crisis

C-GCC alumnus Conor O’Neill ’14 poses in his COVID-19- approved safety gear. Photo contributed

GREENPORT — Columbia-Greene Community College alumnus and Hudson resident Conor O’Neill is busy putting out fires and saving lives — jobs that have become even more challenging in the wake of Covid-19.

Mr. O’Neill, who graduated from C-GCC in 2014 with a degree in criminal justice, is currently studying paramedics at SUNY Cobleskill. In addition to his college studies, he is a full-time EMT, and volunteers for a local fire department.

He explained the immense impact Covid-19 has had on first responders, saying that both the rescue squad and the fire department have had to change procedures numerous times as the Covid-19 situation evolves.

“I’ve been a local volunteer firefighter for eight years and a full–time EMT for four, and the changes have been drastic,” he said in a press release. “In the past, it would only take five-or-10 minutes for the ambulance to be ready for the next call. Now, with all the additional safety precautions we need to take, it may be up to an hour before that ambulance is ready for the next call,”

Mr. O’Neill added, “The ambulance is bleached, airborne particles are pushed out with a fan, and surfaces are then further disinfected with a UVC light.”

He said the fire department has also changed their procedures to comply with coronavirus protocols.

“When the fire department responds to a call, we now ask homeowners about their health before we can enter their residence. If they exhibit any symptoms of Covid-19, we put on air masks before we can go in and investigate alarms. Any responders who entered the residence will then self-isolate — washing gear, disinfecting equipment, and showering — upon returning to the station. All of this is meant to keep our members safe, healthy, and able to respond to future emergencies,” he said, noting that face masks are required for all interactions with patients, the public, and co-workers. “I can’t stress enough how important it is for the general public to remain isolated even if things begin to reopen. All it takes is one person in a crowded restaurant or bar to cause a spike in cases.”

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