PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Pasco County Fire Chief Scott Cassin is asking families in the area to avoid using 911 for COVID-related calls.

The fire chief made the request via video message on Tuesday.

“This is causing an ambulance shortage across the county and is causing long wait times for 911 callers. As Pasco Fire Chief. I’m asking every resident and visitor of Pasco County, and the Bay Area, to stay vigilant,” he explained.

According to Cassin, many hospitals in the area are at or over capacity which means patients are waiting for hours in ambulances.

He wants the emergency number reserved for those experiencing shortness of breath, chest pains, serious trauma or life threatening injuries.

“If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as fever, sore throat or cough, contact your physician, urgent care center or the Department of Health for testing to help reduce the impact on area emergency departments,” Cassin said.

Pinellas County emergency leaders also reported and overwhelming increase in COVID-19 related 911 calls at the start of August.

In Pasco County, the fire chief is asking families to get vaccinated and do what they can to help slow the spread of the virus.