Fulton leases ambulances for south county, where COVID-19 is most dire

These medical first responder units, which officials say are different from ambulances because they have more gear and are designated differently, are going to cities throughout the southern part of Fulton County to ensure adequate service amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ben Brasch/AJC)
These medical first responder units, which officials say are different from ambulances because they have more gear and are designated differently, are going to cities throughout the southern part of Fulton County to ensure adequate service amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Ben Brasch/AJC)

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

Fulton County has leased six vehicles to help maintain medical transport service because first responders and hospitals are taxed by all that goes into managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

South county leaders gathered in the parking lot of Wolf Creek Amphitheater, which is also home to a coronavirus testing site, to thank each other for bringing the vehicles to the cities of South Fulton, Union City, Fairburn, College Park, Chattahoochee Hills, East Point and Palmetto.

The southside is getting the vehicles because that’s where county data shows the coronavirus is most widespread.


According to an epidemiology report the Fulton Board of Health released Friday, the county's highest rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people is Union City with 391.2, then the city of South Fulton with 369. The lowest in Fulton are Alpharetta with 103.6, then Johns Creek at 111.2 per 100,000 people.

With roughly half the county’s population, the city of Atlanta has the highest number of total cases with 1,314 — for a rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people of 297.8.


READ | HUD: Atlanta fails again to properly run homeless HIV program


The county spent $110,000 leasing the vehicles for three months, said Fulton's COO Anna Roach. She said she expects to be able to pay for the leases with some of the $100 million Fulton is expecting to receive from the federal CARES Act coronavirus relief fund.

The vehicles are “medical first responder units,” which are different from ambulances because these have more gear and so are designated differently, said Fulton’s interim director of emergency services Chris Sweigart.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts speaks during a media event on Friday, May 1, 2020 to celebrate Fulton leasing six medical first responder units to help the cities of southern Fulton respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was held in the parking lot of the Wolf Creek Amphitheater, which is a coroanvirus testing site. (Ben Brasch/AJC)
Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts speaks during a media event on Friday, May 1, 2020 to celebrate Fulton leasing six medical first responder units to help the cities of southern Fulton respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was held in the parking lot of the Wolf Creek Amphitheater, which is a coroanvirus testing site. (Ben Brasch/AJC)

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

Credit: Ben Brasch/AJC

Sweigart said these vehicles are needed because the turnaround time for first responder units leaving hospitals has increased to 30 minutes from 15-20 minutes.

So if an ambulance gets drops someone off at the hospital, it’s taking 10-15 minutes longer to get back out on the road because of the protocol that has to be followed at the hospital and because first responders are having to do deeper cleans before leaving to another call, he said.


READ | As Fairburn mourns loss of colleague, mayor defends order to work on


Sweigart said his team analyzed the data and found that six vehicles was the right number to get.

Officials credited Palmetto’s fire chief Henry Argo with first raising the flag that these vehicles would be needed.

Argo, who’s been in emergency management 43 years, said Friday that he saw others around the country were struggling with this, so he wanted to get out ahead of the issue.

“It’s good to have them if you need them, said Palmetto Mayor J. Clark Boddie.


Follow | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Facebook and Twitter


More than 26,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Georgia as of Thursday, officials said.

In Other News