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Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Local Chiefs Not Concerned About COVID-19 Being a Presumptive Illness

Grand Prairie, Irving — Law enforcement and other first responders continue risking exposure to COVID-19 as they work in their communities. Luckily, they are being taken care of by their respective cities.

In wake of the pandemic, first responders had to take extra precautions to ensure not only the people they are helping are safe, but also their own health will not be compromised.

“There are additional PPE safety measures put into place,” Jeff Spivey, Irving police chief, said. “We’ve issued all of our police officers N-95 masks. We’ve also given them surgical style masks thatthey can wear if they’re not going to come into close contact with someone.

“If [officers] are going to have some interaction, they will hand the surgical mask to the person and ask them to put it on for both of their safety.”

Daniel Scesney, Grand Prairie police chief, said that GPPD has similar policies in place, as well as additional measures.

“A lot of the people are struggling right now,” Scesney said. “Sometimes they’ll go to an essential business and want to go inside but are turned away because they don’t have a mask. Our officers carry those extra masks.

“The goal is to try to get the people to help they need. They’re hurting, so if we can issue them a mask and make sure the business is happy, the citizens happy then that makes the officers happy, and we can give them what they need.

“At the police station, we also have implemented a number of strategies to try and keep the virus out. You can come in or out of our facility without hand sanitizing. We do a complete disinfecting of our building at least once a week.

“All of our police vehicles are disinfected weekly,” Scesney said. “We disinfect our employees’ personal vehicles, so they have the opportunity to make sure that the disinfectant will keep them safe, so they don’t take that home to their families.”

“We’ve added a filter method in our dispatch center,” Robert Fite, Grand Prairie fire chief, said. “We’re not going on every 911 call and telling people either to go to their doctor, or take some over the counter medication. We’re not going to every call just because someone has a fever.

“We’ve transported 16 COVID patients that we know of. We have yet to have an exposure to our firefighters. They are wearing gowns, mask eye protection and gloves on every call, whether it’s a car wreck or just a general sick person. It looks like you’re going into surgery walking into a car wreck.” 

Irving Fire Department was notified of its first confirmed COVID-19 case on April 23.

“It was from a patient that would not tell our paramedics until they got to the hospital [that he probably had COVID-19],” Victor Conley, Irving fire chief, said.

As first responders continue to serve their communities, advocacy groups have started asking if COVID-19 will be considered a presumptive illness, or according to the Texas Statues Labor Code, something which “a firefighter’s and emergency medical technician’s disability or death resulted from a disease or illness contracted in the course and scope of employment.”

“We run into this all the time with cancer, and it’s carried over into COVID-19,” Conley said. “I can tell you from the one fire fighter that has tested positive from an on duty exposure, our HR department has stepped up. They’ve done nothing but work with the employee to make sure he’s accommodated in all areas from testing to isolation at home.”

“It’s important the state really stand behind our employees in this regard from a police and fire perspective,” Spivey said. “Our employees can’t work from home. We can’t take those social distancing recommendations. We have to lay hands on people. We have to interact with them in confined areas.

“Usually from a worker’s comp standpoint, you have to point to a specific incident to say that it occurred on duty and was work related. It would be somewhat disingenuous to not cover an exposure, not covering employee who came down with COVID-19 as a work-related incident. It would be an undue burden on our employees and on our cities, to make us point to a specific incident before the workers comp commission would cover an employee that’s why it’s so important for this legislation.

“With so many patients who are asymptomatic, we’re coming in contact with people all the time who are not exhibiting symptoms, but that doesn’t mean they are not spreading the virus,” Spivey said.

“I don’t have that concern,” Scesney said. “Our city has taken really good care of all our employees. We’ve had a number of close calls, so those exposures are certainly a concern. There haven’t been any issues. Officers are not [paying] out of pocket. So far it has not been a problem at all.”

You can view the full interview in the videos below:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Videos by Luke Schumacher and Ariel Graham