Lawmaker Files Legislation to Help First Responders Who Contract Coronavirus

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State Rep. James Arciero has filed legislation that will assist first responders who are or will be affected by the growing Coronavirus epidemic in Massachusetts.

“With 445 residents of Massachusetts currently under quarantine as of today, this public health threat seems likely to expand in the weeks ahead, and our first responders will be on the frontline addressing the critical health impacts of this pandemic,” said Arciero.

The bill seeks to cover those individuals employed as police, fire personnel, correction officers, dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nursing professionals and all others who serve in a first responder capacity. Any person in this group who has symptoms of or contracts the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and is hospitalized, quarantined or required to be self-quarantined because of this infection or coming into contact with someone who is infected, shall have their time of incapacity or inability to perform their regular duties considered as regular on-duty time. The public safety officials shall not be required to use their regular sick time, vacation time, personal time or other forms of contractual time-off to cover this period of treatment and isolation.

“This is important legislative language that we have been working on over the last few days to make sure that our first responders do not suffer the double jeopardy of contracting the COVID-19 virus and then being penalized financially. These public servants are on the front lines with our medical community in confronting this pandemic and need the Commonwealth’s support and protection,” said Gerry Flynn, Executive Director of the New England Police Benevolent Association, whose group is leading the effort on this important issue for public safety personnel.

“As the head of a 19-member force, I know that our officers may encounter cases where they will be responding to medical emergencies and other situations that pose a risk of exposure to this virus.  Ensuring that they will not be penalized for missed time is reassuring, as they respond to calls from the citizens of Littleton,” said Chief Matthew Pinard of the Littleton Police Department.

“The Coronavirus is impacting our state and citizens in so many different ways.  I have had constituents who have been quarantined on cruise ships, have had overseas school trips postponed, have had students required to not return to colleges, to name a few of the concerns that my office has received.  Next week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives will be debating a $15 million funding bill to address this public health crisis and its impacts. I am hopeful that this bill will be addressed either independently or as part of this larger bill,” said Arciero.

“Our police force is a group of dedicated individuals who serve the town and citizens of Westford and I have the utmost confidence that they will continue to serve on the frontline as we tackle the effects of the Coronavirus.  I think this is a fair, commonsense proposal to protect our public safety individuals as they are called out to serve residents who may be infected with this disease.  I think this is an adequate step to hold them harmless as they continue to do the important work of public safety and interact with our community,” said Police Chief Thomas McEnaney, of the Westford Police Department.

The bill will have a 7- day period where other legislators will have the opportunity to co-sponsor the bill.