Guilford County Emergency Services Director Jim Albright said this week that the long-lasting pandemic is taking a very big toll on his department.

He added that it has completely altered the way the department operates – creating a major strain on the county’s emergency responders and those in related jobs.

Albright said that a pandemic, unlike other disasters the department is used to addressing, brings a whole new set of problems.

“I’d take a hurricane any day,” Albright told the Rhino Times on Wednesday, Dec. 9.   “They come and then you deal with them, and then in a couple of weeks they’re over.”

A pandemic, on the other hand, he said, comes and stays. It lingers, attacking employee morale and taxing resources to the limits. He said that, due to the need for protective gear, constant cleaning and other COVID-19-related practices, the department has completely changed the way it operates.

“It takes longer to turn the trucks around,” Albright said.

Albright, who’s been in the emergency services business since before the turn of the century, said this is something brand new for the responders to have to deal with.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said.

He also said one problem is having workers out, either because they’ve contracted the virus or they’re being tested for it, or quarantined because of it.

According to Albright, emergency responders in the county are working harder than ever and they are doing so in oppressive conditions that weigh on them emotionally. He said the long-term stress of providing emergency services in a pandemic environment is really affecting the department.

In some areas across the country, the fact that more people are staying at home has reduced calls for things like traffic accidents, violent attacks and broken bones. However, Albright said Wednesday that the regular calls are still coming in as usual in Guilford County – and now the department sees COVID-19-related calls on top of what they would ordinarily be handling. Albright said its obvious there’s a violent crime issue in Greensboro right now and added that Emergency Services responds to those calls.

Albright said he’s just hoping and praying the vaccines will get here soon.

“I’m ready to roll up my sleeve right now,” he said. “I’m a big fan of vaccines and I’m ready to take this one.”