Mayor Rhodes-Conway's Statement in Support of First Responders during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Yesterday’s fire on our City’s west side serves as a stark reminder that our first responders continue to place themselves in harm’s way in order to keep us safe throughout this pandemic. While most of us have the luxury of being able to keep ourselves safe by staying home, practicing physical distancing, wearing face coverings and other protective measures, those who have chosen public service as their calling often don’t have that same luxury.
Whether it’s fighting fires, responding to crime and disorder, providing health services and support to those most in need of care, cleaning our buildings or driving a bus, maintaining physical distance to protect themselves is not an option for our front line workers. At times of crisis, they do what needs to be done in the service to others, often placing themselves at risk in the process. As mayor, I am humbled by and grateful for their dedication.
But our frontline workers deserve more than our gratitude, they deserve to know that if they fall ill as a result of having served, they will be supported. Until last week, there was legislation making its way through the State legislature that would have offered additional protection to first responders believed to have contracted a contagious disease during the course of their duties. Last week, there was an amendment introduced that would shifted the burden to the infected employee to prove that they contracted the disease during the course of their employment duties.
In the case of the COVID pandemic, where infected individuals are contagious before they show physical symptoms, it could be virtually impossible for our employees to prove when they were exposed.
Our frontline workers deserve better. They deserve the peace of mind knowing that, while they are putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us, we stand ready to support them and their loved ones should they need our support.
I am calling on the compassion and reason of all of our state legislators to support the original bill, and to oppose the amend that threatens to leave our employees unable to secure Workers Compensation when they need it most.