LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KARK) — As thousands of new COVID-19 positive cases are reported each day, the omicron variant is making a negative impact in nearly every facet of society.

In Little Rock and across the country, the virus and its effects are causing first responders to be delayed in their response to emergency situations.

“People keep talking about the ‘new norm,'” said Greg Thompson, the Executive Director for MEMS in Little Rock. “I don’t even know what that is anymore. It’s just a very busy time.”

More calls are coming into MEMS than at any other point during the pandemic, Thompson said, and first responders are testing positive for the virus. With only a set number of responders on staff, six or seven people missing work can be problematic.

“These responders are showing up knowing even though they’re down staff, citizens are getting the care they deserve,” Thompson said. “We’re seeing it affect our workers more than it’s happened in the past.”

The virus is having an impact on all community heroes. Firefighters generally stay at an emergency scene for only a few minutes until a medic arrives. During this period, they are waiting longer.

“We basically get there, stay there, stabilize [the injured person],” said Capt. Jason Weaver of the Little Rock Fire Dept. “We’re having to maintain that a little longer, so there is added stress.”

Weaver said firefighters are still arriving to emergency scenes in a normal, timely fashion. Some victims are being told to take their own cars to the hospital when too many ambulances are tied up at other locations.

“Evaluate the situation,” Weaver said. “Make sure you need an ambulance if you call for one.”

Thompson said qualified first responders are needed now more than ever.

“If you’re looking for a place to make a difference, right now is the time to make that difference,” Thompson said.

MEMS is taking steps to bring in more people, Thompson said.

“We’re offering more classes,” Thompson said. “We’re leaning hard into hiring people who are certified and making a home for them.”