COVID-19 Outbreak at Reedy Creek Fire Department, First Responders Lack Support
According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, there has been a COVID-19 outbreak at Walt Disney World’s local Reedy Creek Fire Department, but first responders are not receiving support.
Two employees tested positive at the end of July and 10 total have contracted COVID-19. At least two who have tested positive were already vaccinated. President of the Reedy Creek Firefighters Association Jon Shirey said that contact tracing revealed 90 out of 205 firefighters and paramedics on staff have been exposed to the virus.
Employees of Reedy Creek are required to report a positive COVID-19 test to the department. They are also required to wear masks indoors and inside vehicles, but exposure is still possible.
Shirey said, “If we’re sick or hurt, we can’t really help the people that we’re supposed to be serving… And it’s not a good feeling for us. We got into this profession because we like to help people, not because we want to hurt people or we’re gonna get them sick.”
Employees do not receive workers’ compensation for COVID-19-related claims. They aren’t granted sick days, so have to use personal time if sick or if they are exposed and need to quarantine. As a result, many are going to work with possible COVID-19 symptoms, posing a risk for Walt Disney World at large.
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As Shirey said, “That’s not the kind of culture that we need to be encouraging. It would be a lot better if people could just honestly report when they’re having symptoms, that way they’re not risking everybody’s lives and safety with this.”
The union’s communications director, Tim Stromsnes, said employees are not intentionally coming to work with symptoms, and that many who have been vaccinated “don’t even know they have it.”
Eryka Washington, communications director for the Reedy Creek Improvement District, said that the cases and exposures cited by the union are not correct, but could not release exact numbers. She did not confirm details about the sick leave policy or compensation claims to the Orlando Sentinel.
Washington said in a statement, “[S]ince the beginning of the pandemic, the district has and will continue to follow the health and safety guidance from the CDC and local health officials to help protect the health and wellness of district employees and the people we serve.”