Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature is all that’s needed to make the state’s first responders who become sick with COVID-19 eligible for workers compensation.
A bill from State Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) allowing first responders who contract the virus to be included in the state’s workers compensation system has passed both the House and the Senate. Northam is expected to sign it into law.
In a release, Jones classified first responders as firefighters, law enforcement and EMS providers who are exposed to COVID-19 while on the job.
“Our first responders have been on the front-lines of the pandemic for a year and they deserve the ability to make a workers compensation claim for COVID if they were exposed on the job,” Jones said in a statement.
“The current worker’s protections outlined in the Code of Virginia are inadequate and this is a simple but incredibly necessary fix that protects those who have sacrificed so much to keep the rest of us safe.”
Jones also thanked former Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the release for “his efforts to secure the retroactive provision in this legislation.”
The release noted that the Code of Virginia only covers “ordinary diseases” in its worker’s compensation protections and not the novel coronavirus.
An example of this current code’s failure cited in the release was how outbreaks were handled among first responders at the state’s largest fire department, Fairfax County’s Fire and Rescue.
According to the release, Fairfax Fire and Rescue had more than 126 positive COVID-19 cases, but only 14 of those have had Virginia-funded workers’ compensation benefits.
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