Attleboro firefighter hospitalized with Covid-19; city questions whether or not he caught it while working

The union says the city has refused to offer 'Injured On Duty' benefits to the firefighter, and the city says that's because it's unclear if he contracted the virus while working.

ATTLEBORO, R.I (WLNE) – The Attleboro firefighter’s union is at odds with the city as one of their
own is hospitalized with Covid-19.

The union says the city has refused to offer ‘Injured On Duty’ benefits to the firefighter, and the city says that’s because it’s unclear if he contracted the virus while working.

That firefighter is hospitalized at Sturdy Memorial Hospital and has been since Sunday.

Last month, 12 people in the Attleboro fire department tested positive for the coronavirus. All of them have recovered.

Now another member has tested positive, and is not doing well.

“Unfortunately he’s in the hospital now. Double lung pneumonia. Covid-19 positive. Can only breathe on oxygen,” said Local 848 President Paul Jacques. “He’s 29, he’s a young guy. He gave us – he’s like, ‘This is my mom’s number. Call my mom, I’m going down hill.'”

The difference between this case of the virus and the outbreak in October, according to Jacques, is that they were notified this firefighter will not be eligible for ‘Injured on Duty’ benefits as the others were. This means he and his family could be left with a mountain of bills.

“To have to call him and tell him that his benefits are being shut off because the mayor’s decided he doesn’t feel that your case fits the IOD status of a presumptive, is just unconscionable,” said Jacques.

In response, Mayor Paul Heroux says it’s too soon to say anyone is being denied benefits because it has not been established that this firefighter contracted the virus while working.

Jacques countered by saying it’s highly unlikely he could have gotten it anywhere else.

“Basically every single run we go to now has become a Covid-19 possible,” explained Jacques. “So to say that he got it somewhere else – if you want to play the odds and look at it, more exposure is on the job rather than being at home.”

Within the contract of what qualifies as ‘Injured on Duty’ includes communicable diseases.

However Mayor Heroux says Covid-19 is not listed as one of those illnesses, and the state has not passed legislation to determine it as a presumptive.

“We have strong presumptive infectious disease language within our contract, in our collective bargaining agreement, that clearly states that infectious disease is a presumptive,” said Jacques. “It’s covered.”

Mayor Heroux added if this firefighter’s case of Covid-19 is contact traced back to work he will likely be eligible for those ‘Injured on Duty’ benefits.

Categories: Attleboro, Coronavirus, Massachusetts, News