After the COVID-19 interruption, the programs that train first responders at Palomar College are back in the classroom, with a new set of health precautions and renewed determination.

ESCONDIDO — On Thursday, June 4, the future medics and emergency room technicians of San Diego and beyond were busy taking a set of certification exams at Palomar College’s Escondido Education Center.

It was the last step in their training at Palomar, and an encouraging sign of life for the Emergency Medical Education (EME) program, which, like all of the college’s instructional programs, went on hiatus in mid-March with the onset of COVID-19.

“When COVID-19 hit and we were instructed to put all classes online, all of the EME instructors did a lot of work in a very short amount of time—and 60-plus percent of them work other jobs as firefighter-paramedics and EMTs,” said Sarah De Simone, the EME Program Director at Palomar. “Not only were they working full-time dealing with this pandemic, they were also working to make sure the education here was stellar.”

Although the hiatus led to inevitable delays, she said the students had made up for lost time and, as of June 8, all classes that were in progress when COVID-19 arrived will have completed.

“Our students were amazing,” said De Simone. “They stepped up and worked extraordinarily hard.”

The college is following all protocols set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and county health officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and continues to strictly limit nonessential personnel at the main campus and Escondido Education Center.

Among other precautionary steps, the EME program added instructors in order to meet a four-to-one ratio of students to teachers. Along with social distancing in classrooms, students changed gloves between stations in every skills exam, and washed their hands frequently to prevent the spread of germs.

All three of the Palomar College public safety training programs—EME, Fire Academy, and Police Academy—resumed in-person instruction in May.