Reedy Creek’s paramedics and firefighters that represent Florida’s Walt Disney World theme park and resorts are being denied workers’ compensation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been at least three paramedics who have self quarantined when they tested positive. After their 14 day isolation, they were denied workers’ compensation.
On Monday, June 29, the three paramedics worked a shift where a patient refused to wear a mask. Four days later, all three of the paramedics tested positive for COVID-19. However, Reedy Creek Officials stated there were no patients that tested positive within the dates of June 23 and July 3.
Investigation at The Reedy Creek Improvement District
Reedy Creek Improvement District officials conducted an investigation and found that the paramedics began showing symptoms during the time when they did not come into contact with any COVID-19 positive patients. According to the officials, this examination proves that these first responders did not contract COVID-19 at on the job. In addition to the investigation, Reedy Creek’s communications manager claimed that the Disney Parks and Resorts were closed while the medics tested positive.
Michael Grant, one of the paramedics that tested positive, believes that he contracted the virus while at work despite what Reedy Creek claimed in their statement. He lost his taste and smell quickly and still has yet to get it back. According to Click Orlando, Grant said: “I have a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old and obviously they were my biggest concern.” He then stated, “We’re on the front lines dealing with COVID every day…For us not being taken care of is a slap in the face.”
Grant, along with several other first responders, believe the department’s policy is completely unfair due to both the lack of protection from COVID-19 exposure and the denial of rightful workers compensation benefits.
First Responder’s Solution
The Reedy Creek Fire Department employees are striving to address this flawed workers’ compensation issue. They are attempting to change the department policies so employees are not forced to use their own personal sick leave if they have tested positive for COVID-19. Their goal is to receive paid administrative leave while quarantining due to exposure. According to Reedy Creek department officials, it is policy for first responders to use sick leave and/or vacation time even if they test positive for or are exposed to COVID-19. The Reedy Creek department operates very differently than other departments’ policies. First responders in Orlando are granted with an excused absence with pay. Through the CARES Act funding, Orange County first responders have up to 80 hours of “COVID leave time”, and are still eligible for worker’s compensation after. According to The Reedy Creek Department Officials, there has been a significant decrease, nearly a 90% drop, in the amount of calls first responders would receive since the Disney parks are now closed. Therefore, the chances of being exposed to COVID-19 is not the same for Reedy Creek firefighters as it is in Orlando and Orange County.