MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – During another Greater Dayton Area Hospital Association (GDAHA) press conference and hospital update, the immediate past president of the Greater Miami Valley EMS Council was invited to share how COVID-19 has impacted local first responders.

David Gerstner says he’s been working in pandemic preparedness for more than 20 years, but nothing prepared him for what the coronavirus pandemic has brought so far.

“I will tell you …I am tired of this,” he said. “This pandemic has dragged on for all of us.”

Gerstner says recently, the Miami Valley first responders have seen a dramatic increase in the number of emergency calls they are responding too. Another concerning increase is the number of first responders who are dying from COVID-19.

It always makes the news when a law enforcement officer is shot,” said Gerstner. “And now, 64 percent of all line of duty deaths in law enforcement in 2021 are from COVID-19.”

Gerstner reports that COVID-19 has killed more than 250 fire, EMS, and dispatch personnel…and more than 338 law enforcement line of duty deaths were caused by the coronavirus.

He’s encouraging those who are eligible to get the vaccine to protect themselves and others.

“Right now, anybody who gets COVID and dies from it- it is often, a preventable death,” he said. “I tell everybody to get the vaccine, it works [and] it will save your life.”

Vaccine mandates vary from department to department. However, the Greater Miami Valley EMS Council does not have any jurisdiction to enforce vaccine mandates on departments. And Gerstner does not believe they should be necessary.

“Mandates shouldn’t be needed. We should have people clamoring for this vaccine. It’s the right thing to do,” said Gerstner.