After Members Test Positive, Iowa Firefighters Union Calls On Gov. Reynolds To Guarantee COVID-19 Protections, No Matter Where They Serve

The Iowa Professional Fire Fighters union is calling on Gov. Kim Reynolds to issue guidance requiring cities to cover medical costs for emergency first responders who contract the coronavirus.

“We obviously are required to respond in emergencies and interact with people,” union president Doug Neys told the Des Moines Register. “And even with all the precautions that we can take, our duties put us in a position where we’re at higher risk.”

The union represents more than 1,500 firefighters and emergency service providers across Iowa. Neys, who is a firefighter in Ames, said about 50 of the union’s members have been tested for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Of those, four tested positive.

Some local governments presume that first responders who contract the disease did so on the job, he said. That means the illness gets treated as a line of duty injury and that local governments are responsible for the associated medical costs.

But some local governments are not making that presumption, Neys said, and it’s created a patchwork approach across the state.

“Most municipalities are treating their people well and they want to do the right thing by them,” Neys said. “But they’re not all doing it the same, and we’re looking for some consistency across the state. If you’re a firefighter in Des Moines, you should be treated the same as a firefighter in Mason City.”

He said his organization has been working with the governor’s office and the Iowa League of Cities since March 20, asking them to issue guidelines to cities that all coronavirus cases should be presumed to have been acquired on the job. But, so far, they have not done so.

“I don’t claim to be a scientist or medical professional, but I don’t foresee this going away any time soon,” Neys said. “And I fear with the relaxation of some of the measures she’s taken, we are going to be more and more exposed as time goes on.”

The governor’s office and the Iowa League of Cities did not immediately return a request for comment.

From via the Des Moines Register

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