AUSTIN, Texas - The largest law enforcement officer’s union in Texas is begging Governor Greg Abbott to order COVID-19 a presumptive illness for first responders.
Doing so would make first responders eligible to be covered for COVID-19 treatment by workers compensation without having to prove they got infected on the job.
“The first responders of Texas deserve to have this disease covered,” said Charley Wilkison, executive director of Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas or CLEAT.
CLEAT is fighting for first responders on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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“So these people that are risking everything at least deserve to have this disease declared as presumptive, which would mean we presumed that they got it on duty and that would be covered on Texas Department of Insurance workers compensation,” Wilkison said.
CLEAT asked Gov. Abbott to issue an executive order to make that happen last month, but it still hasn’t been done. Without an executive order, first responders would have to wait for the legislative session in 2021 to try and get COVID-19 added to the list of presumptive illnesses.
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Meanwhile, Texas first responders have become sick, been hospitalized, and even died from COVID-19.
“Let’s get this done before we have another loss of life before we have more people that are going to be in the system and not able to pay,” said Wilkison.
Fox 7 Austin asked the governor whether he would be issuing an executive order to declare COVID-19 a presumptive illness during a briefing Tuesday. “All strategies like that are being looked into,” Abbott replied.
Still, CLEAT staff said time is of the essence, especially with some businesses opening back up next week.
“If you’re not going to have it as a presumptive disease and you’re not going to have an executive order, then the least we can do is get them the PPE and that hasn’t been done either,” said Wilkison.
When it comes to protective gear, CLEAT said their staff has spent about $250,000 on masks for officers across the state. That’s after learning only larger, more urban agencies had enough supplies.
“We want these people to get well and we want the best proper care for them. And it’s not fair for first responders to be out working without the gear you owed them as a state and federal government,” Wilkison said.
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