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Wyden co-sponsors bill to protect firefighters during COVID-19 pandemic

KTVZ file

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Friday his co-sponsorship of the COVID-19 as a Presumptive Disease in Wildland Firefighters Act  to protect firefighters during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

"Every year our wildland firefighters put their lives on the line to protect our communities in Oregon and nationwide from destruction and dangerous wildfire smoke. In the face of COVID-19, a disease that threatens the health of our lungs, their work has never been more important or more dangerous," Wyden said. "These brave firefighters deserve assurances that their health and livelihoods will be protected while they fight to protect all of us."

The legislation — which was introduced by  Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Tom Udall, D-N.M.— addresses concerns about the applicability of worker’s compensation coverage if a firefighter contracts COVID-19. 

If a firefighter does contract COVID-19 while serving this fire season, the legislation would ensure a presumption that it was contracted in the line of duty to allow eligibility for worker's compensation benefits.

The legislation also requires firefighters to be tested for COVID-19 before beginning work this fire season. Taken together, the legislation would help alleviate existing concerns among the firefighting workforce and ensure members of the public and their livelihoods remain protected.

Wyden's support for the COVID-19 as a Presumptive Disease in Wildland Firefighters Act builds on his broader efforts to bolster wildfire prevention and preparedness to protect the health and safety of communities during the unparalleled combination of threats posed by wildfire season and the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, Wyden introduced the 21st Century Conservation Corps for Our Health and Our Jobs Act, which would make significant investments for wildfire resiliency to protect Americans from wildfire smoke and boost support for rural economies hit hard by COVID-19.

Article Topic Follows: Oregon-Northwest

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