By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As COVID-19 cases skyrocket to unprecedented levels across the region the Los Angeles County Fire Department has adjusted its policy on ambulance dispatches to maintain service to the community.

“The rapid spread of Omicron has wiped out our workforce and we are implementing different workarounds and alternate service delivery models,” said privately-owned McCormick Ambulances in a statement. McCormick and other companies have contracts with L.A. County for ambulance services.

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“Our goal is to try and deliver the highest level of care to as many citizens as possible with the resources we have available.”

In a shift to manage their dwindling resources, L.A. County Fire will now implement a tiered system for ambulance dispatches —  there will still be full medical responses to all applicable calls, however, some may not include an ambulance. The new system will require crews to assess whether a call warrants an ambulance response, if a call is serious enough, an ambulance will be dispatched.

“A basic first aid or a basic response, they’re encouraging residents to find a private vehicle or alternative methods to get to the hospital,” said L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Brian Bennet.

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Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who announced she tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday night, said in a statement to CBSLA that residents should only use 911 in life-threatening situations.

City fire department crews are experiencing a shortage of their own with almost 300 employees calling out sick after testing positive for COVID-19. According to Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas, 299 LAFD members have tested positive, 80% of which have been breakthrough infections. Of the sick employees, 280 are in isolation, 17 are in long-term recovery and two are in the h0spital.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 30: LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas visits a coronavirus vaccination site at Lincoln Park on December 30, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles will use three existing testing sites as vaccination centers for healthcare workers. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“We’ve had to hire more firefighters on overtime,” said Terrazas. “We’ve had to implement force hiring, what we call a recall. And we have to close down some resources on a daily basis. All fire stations are staffed and open.”

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L.A. County Fire said there is no timeline for how long the new protocols will remain but assure the public that they are working to adjust to the COVID surge.