ORLANDO, Fla. – First responders who launched a legal battle to collect workers compensation benefits after being diagnosed with COVID-19 are getting push-back from the Reedy Creek Improvement District after an internal investigation determined that no patients on their emergency calls from June 23 to July 3 tested positive for the coronavirus.
Michael Grant, a paramedic with Reedy Creek since 2018, said he tested positive with the virus on July 3 after being exposed to paramedics on his shift who conducted an emergency run at Disney Springs sometime between noon and 2 p.m. on June 29.
Grant said once he received his test results he quarantined at home for the CDC-recommended 14 days.
A Reedy Creek representative said the timeline for Grant’s illness doesn’t fall into the accepted CDC guideline of two to 17 days because he started showing symptoms 24 hours after contact with the paramedics.
The Reedy Creek communications manager told News 6, “We did pull all the EMS reports from June 23 (a week prior to the first person showing symptoms). They responded to a total of four patients, none of whom were diagnosed as having COVID-19. Keep in mind, that all of the Disney Parks and Resorts were closed at this time.”
Reedy Creek paramedics Steven Provost and Brian Astleford were on the June 29 call to Disney Springs and tested positive for the coronavirus four days later.
Provost said the homeless patient on the call was not wearing a mask.
“Once I put it on him, he was repeatedly trying to take it off,” Provost said.
Provost said the entire team on that shift followed protocol, which included temperature checks. No one presented symptoms that day.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard to social distance from a patient,” the veteran paramedic said. “Anyone that’s seen the back of a rescue unit knows it’s very small quarters.”
Provost, who has served as a firefighter/paramedic with Reedy Creek for five years, confirmed that Michael Grant was on the shift in question and was in the station after they returned from the Disney Springs call.
“Unfortunately, we all worked the shift together after that call,” he said.
Provost, Astlelford and Grant filed workers compensation claims but were denied. They have since returned to work.
“We’re on the front lines dealing with COVID everyday,” Grant told News 6. “For us not being taken care of is a slap in the face.”
The Reedy Creek paramedics are among an estimated 100 first responders from police and fire rescue units in four counties, including Volusia, Marion, Miami-Dade and Charlotte, fighting for benefits after testing positive for COVID-19.
Veteran Maitland attorney Geoff Bichler, a longtime champion of first responders, told News 6 the workers comp issue needs to be addressed in Tallahassee because this is a growing issue for police and firefighters across the state.
“This is something I think that needs a legislative push, and it should move quickly,” Bichler said. “They are a lot of employers in Florida simply saying you can’t prove you contracted this disease on the job. Until there is a vaccine, we’re going to continue to have this issue.”
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