Firefighters and COVID and heads of state push for compensation for ‘suspected’ workers

GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – An effort to protect more firefighters and other frontline workers when they are out of work due to COVID. This is what the leaders of the Professional Fire Fighters Association of South Carolina are doing now, as they mourn the loss of some of their own to the virus.

Put on the protective gown, disinfect after each call and do not leave any traces of germs inside the fire engines.

“IPads, radios will be pulverized. We’re basically going from the passenger side to the back, ”said Lt. Tim Ratkowiak of the Boiling Springs Fire District.

This is just part of what has become routine when they get a COVID-related call in the Boiling Springs Fire District, which is a lot. In fact, the head of 7 News said, since the start of the year, a third of all their calls have been for COVID.

“We have seen more than our fair share of COVID-related calls here over the past two weeks,” said Jerry Pera, engineer / EMT for the Boiling Springs Fire District.

But luckily, firefighters and paramedics like Jerry Pera remained healthy. He told us that if they bring COVID home from one of those calls, they have support.

“HIV, what have you, it is the same precedent with our carrier. It’s treated like a workers’ compensation case, covers it all for us and all we have to do is follow protocol, ”Pera explained.

But state fire chiefs say proving where and how you contracted the virus can be a long and disappointing process in other state departments.

“You have to prove that you have been exposed at work. Well if you are constantly making people work overtime and you are there all the time at some point you have to assume that they have been exposed at work since they are treating these people ”, William Pesature, vice -President of the SC The Association of Professional Fire Fighters told 7 News.

William Pesature helps run the state professional firefighters association. He doesn’t believe all of this evidence is necessary because, he said, it prevents some of his team from getting the compensation they deserve. He told us that should be assumed for all frontline workers.

“A lot of departments take care of their employees, making sure they’re covered even if it’s with federal funds. But some places don’t, they tell them to go on vacation, to go on sick leave, ”Pesature said.

But legally, the upstate lawyer warns it’s an uphill battle. Let us add that this proof is necessary.

“It’s an airborne virus. There is no possibility of proving the causal link because how do you prove that you contracted an airborne illness at this precise time and place, ”said Northern State Attorney John Reckenbeil.

William Pesature said a bill on this was introduced last year but tabled because of COVID. He hopes lawmakers will deal with this bill soon.

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