Vincent Variale is an FDNY EMS lieutenant, and like many in his field, he’s spent the past several months on the frontlines, fighting against the coronavirus. It’s been a challenging fight.

“EMS has been understaffed for many years, even before this crisis…but our members really stepped up. Over the course of mid-March into mid to late April, calls to EMS doubled, EMS workers on sick leave were up 24% (many from exposure to the virus). Workers were working 16-hour days and then sleeping in their cars to not expose their families to the virus.”

Vincent speaks to the toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on his EMS colleagues – with several – including himself – contracting the virus, and many more coping with the mental health repercussions of the pandemic.

“We must have a real conversation about our health care system as well as how we treat front-line workers like EMS members In NYC,” he warns. “EMS are not considered first responders – even though we are responding to these calls every day, even though we are out there saving lives and protecting our communities. We have to take action to improve this so a crisis of this level doesn’t happen again.”

Read more about Vincent and his experiences as an EMS lieutenant during the coronavirus here.