Arizona first responders want workers’ comp protection during pandemic
PHOENIX — Those who protect the public are now asking the state of Arizona to protect them after an alarming amount of first responders have tested positive for coronavirus.
“Our biggest challenge is how these [coronavirus cases] are treated in the work place,” Joe Clure, executive director of the Arizona Police Association, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
Clure, along with leaders from the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association, sent letters to Gov. Doug Ducey dating back to the beginning of April asking for protection from their insurers when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits.
Their goal was to have it become “presumptive” that any first responder who tested positive for COVID-19 contracted the virus while serving in the line of duty, ensuring workers’ compensation.
Clure spoke to KTAR News after the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office announced the death of a deputy and a detention officer who both suffered complications with COVID-19.
“We’ve had some discussions with the governor’s office with regards to making COVID cases presumptive for first responders,” Clure said. “That has not happened, but we hope it does.”
First responders across Arizona have battled major insurance companies and their cities for workers’ compensation, particularly when it comes to contracting occupational cancer on the job after prolonged exposures to chemicals and smoke.
After years of denied workers’ compensation, Arizona first responders thought the battle was won when legislation passed in 2017.
The language ensured workers’ compensation for any firefighter who contracted a cancer that was presumed to be from their job in hazardous duty. However, since then many firefighters continue to battle insurance companies for coverage.
Patrick Ptak, Ducey’s communications director, told KTAR News on Wednesday that the governor’s office has worked with the Industrial Commission to ensure each case will be looked at on a case-by-case basis and will review them in good faith as first responders put themselves at risk of exposure while on duty.
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