JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — First responders who contract coronavirus or are quarantined will be covered under workers’ compensation, Missouri leaders announced Tuesday.
Gov. Mike Parson said he instructed the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DOLIR) to implement an emergency rule that presumes first responders who test positive for COVID-19 contracted it in the line of duty. This will allow them to have expenses covered under Missouri’s Workers’ Compensation law.
“Our law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs are tireless public servants who compromise their own safety to ensure the safety of others,” Parson said during his daily briefing. “They risk themselves each and every day. As a result of their duties, they are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 while on the job.”
In Missouri, most employers must carry insurance to cover medical treatments and lost time benefits for employees who are injured on the job, according to Missouri law. Without the emergency rule, first responders could have had a difficult time proving the illness was a result of their official duties, DOLIR Director Anna Hui said.
“This new rule allows them to focus on their important life-saving mission knowing that they and their loved ones will be provided for under the compensation program,” Hui said.
The emergency rule does not cover first responders’ spouses or dependents, a spokeswoman for the governor told The Missouri Times.
The new rule is expected to go into effect in 10 days, but it is written to cover those who were impacted by coronavirus prior to that date, Hui said.
Officer Jeremy Bowman, president of the Jefferson City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 19, attended Tuesday’s briefing and praised the order for “having a meaningful impact on every police officer, firefighter, and paramedic that goes to work every day.”
More than 3,000 Missourians have tested positive for coronavirus, and 53 people have died. It’s unclear how many first responders have contracted COVID-19 or been quarantined because of the disease. The Department of Public Safety did not have that information readily available.
According to the Department of Corrections, one staff member at the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City has tested positive for coronavirus. (The employee had left work several weeks prior to testing positive for COVID-19 and has not had direct contact with other staff members or offenders.)
Additionally, three probation and parole employees, as well as a Jefferson City office worker, has tested positive for the disease, but none work in prisons.
This story has been updated to include the Department of Public Safety’s response. It was originally published on April 7.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn was the editor in chief of The Missouri Times from 2020-2022. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at email@example.com.