479 NEWS

Member Helps Fellow Medics Deploy to Fight Covid-19

It’s a typical Pandemic Wednesday for Elizabeth Cuvar as she drives south of Atlanta on Interstate 75 to pick up supplies for her job.  In the days before anyone had heard of Covid-19 Elizabeth worked as a medic in Georgia’s thriving film and television industry. Her resume included a variety of Marvel films, several television series, and a recurring stint as an instructor at IATSE Local 479’s training facility, where she trained her fellow members to become certified at performing CPR.
Today she is stopping by her union hall to pick up CPR training mannequins to take them on a field trip up to Atlanta, because these days Elizabeth is on the front line, working to save Georgians who have Covid-19.

IATSE Local 479’s offices are near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In between film projects Elizabeth has been working as a first responder with FEMA and Homeland Security. She was recently called up when the Federal government began activating its nationwide emergency response teams for Covid-19.

Opportunity for Local 479 Medics
Knowing that her fellow medics in Local 479 had been sitting idle (like everyone else in the film industry sidelined by the Covid pandemic) Elizabeth has been reaching out to notify them of this opportunity.

So far she has been able to help 10 of Local 479’s medics find placement with surge hospitals around the country. Three were assigned to the hospital at the GWCC, 3 were sent to New York, 3 were sent to Louisiana, and 1 was sent to Connecticut.  

Additional medics may soon be deployed to the Caribbean.

“I am proud of my brothers and sisters – that we’ve gotten as many as we have into the program.  They may be looking for more relief workers, so if any of our medics are interested, and prepared to be deployed, they should reach out to me – I can point you in the right direction.”

If you are a Local 479 medic interested in learning more about this program, use the button below to contact Elizabeth.

Meet the GWCC Surge Hospital
In mid-April the Georgia National Guard, Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, Department of Community Health, Department of Public Health, and contractors will began preparing the Georgia World Congress Center (“GWCC”) for a potential COVID-19 patient surge.

The GWCC field hospital was assembled in only 5 days, and was online by Saturday, April 18th.

The facility is currently designed to care for 200 patients but can be expanded to 400 beds if necessary. The operation is self-contained and fully functional, with its own lab and scanning equipment.

Hot Zone
This is the area where Covid-19 patients receive treatment. The area is highly dangerous and the entire medical staff must wear isolation suits while they are here.

Warm Zone 
This is the transition area from the Cold Zone to the Hot Zone where incoming staff must first change into “burner” scrubs, then proceed to the donning area, where they don their PPE, which includes isolation suits.

Outgoing staff must be decontaminated following a strict procedure when removing their PPE, overseen by a safety officer. Once they have removed their burner scrubs they may proceed to a shower and then return to their personal clothing.

Cold Zone
This area is where the staff reside during breaks, downtime, and training.  Medical staff who are caring for Covid patients are under a lot of stress and appreciate anything that takes their minds off their responsibilities inside the Hot Zone, from adult coloring books to watching a live feed from the Georgia Aquarium.

Medical teams spend 4 hours in their suit, and 4 hours out of the suit.  They often use their downtime as a chance to review and enhance their training, including administering medication, IV skills, and CPR training.

Surge Hospitals Are Providing Step-Down Care

Medical personnel at the field hospital are treating step-down patients from area hospitals who no longer require intensive care, allowing those hospitals to concentrate on the most critical patients.
There are doctors on-site coordinating with area hospitals to identify potential transfers, which is important because every transfer out of a hospital opens up a bed for a patient in need of critical care.

The GWCC Hospital celebrated the release of their first patient just this Tuesday – a special milestone for everyone involved.

Medics are the Rapid Response Team

Medics like Elizabeth constitute the hospital’s Rapid Response Team, like a 911 unit embedded inside the GWCC field hospital. 
The team includes Delta Combat Medics (Special Operations Combat Medics, highly trained and considered to be among the most elite in the world), who Elizabeth excitedly describes as the “rock stars” of the medic world.

“This hospital is nothing short of a miracle and I am so proud to be a part of this.  I hate that so many of us are unemployed right now, but medics will always be in demand and we will always be able to do something – we’re a very versatile bunch! I am currently in purchasing, but when we get to capacity I will move back to the front line. EMS is proving their worth during this pandemic.”

Unifying Training Standards

Interestingly, training standards vary from state to state. Training that might be considered fundamental in Georgia might be optional elsewhere.  Since the GWCC field hospital’s staff have been deployed from a variety of locations, the disparity in training standards provided a challenge. 

“Before our unit hits full capacity we felt that this could be a great opportunity to refresh and amplify our medical staff’s training around a similar set of standards. CPR training was one of the items at the top of our list, and as one of Local 479’s CPR instructors I realized that I could play a role.”

It turns out that Elizabeth isn’t just any type of CPR instructor, she is a Level 3, which is as high as it gets.  In the State of Georgia a Level 3 instructor essentially teaches paramedics  how to be paramedics.

The Virus Isn’t Gone, Yet

While people debate the ultimate severity of the pandemic in Georgia, Elizabeth encourages everyone to continue to exercise caution and to follow safety guidelines, because she sees seriously ill Georgians every day she goes into the Hot Zone.

“We’re seeing patients come in at a faster rate than last week. On the one hand that’s great because they’re in step-down, on the road to recovery. But some patients decompensate (regress in their treatment). We have to send them back to a hospital ICU immediately and they will undoubtedly be put onto a ventilator within hours. This thing moves very quickly.  If you have asthma or breathing issues, like many in Atlanta who suffer from pollen, you have to take precautions… stay diligent with washing your hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask in public. We are trying to stop this from spreading. I know they’re slowly opening Georgia, but we need to try to keep our family and friends from going out now because it will mean that the film industry can get back to work sooner.

The members of IATSE Local 479 are immensely proud of members like Elizabeth, who are working to help our community during these difficult times. We are eager to return safely to work to bring you new movies and new seasons of your favorite shows. We are in this together.

Got a Story?

During this time of difficulty, we would like to bring you as many of these types of good news stories as possible.  If you know of a Local 479 member that is doing good in their community, please reach out to Drew Duncan, Communications Director at [email protected] to share your story.