I am writing my monthly article while we are in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Many people are getting sick and some are dying. Families have been told to shelter in place. The stock market has tanked. Store shelves are empty. Congress is working to pass a stimulus package. Doctors are studying ways to treat patients. Scientists are working toward a cure.
There are many questions in my mind. Will someone I know die from this? Will my family or I get sick? Will the economy recover? When will life return to normal? I hope that by the time you read this I will have discovered that all my family and friends have stayed safe, that a vaccine is on its way and that the stock market is on its way to a solid recovery.
Last week my county decided to give a stay-at-home/shelter-in-place order, which was followed by a similar statewide order. While I knew that this crisis was on the horizon, this was the first time I realized the gravity of the situation we faced. The city manager called me to discuss the order before it went public. He talked to me about “nonessential” city employees being sent home. As we talked, he quickly realized that none of the members of my local association fit this description. The police officers, sergeants, dispatchers, park rangers and community service officers I represent are all essential employees and will be required to stay on the front lines of this emergency. We talked about ensuring their safety while they worked. This was the first of many discussions with members of my city’s and my department’s leadership teams about ways to keep my membership safe while they serve their community during this crisis.
By the next morning, the city looked like a ghost town as most obeyed the stay-at-home order. While many people in our community were able to stay home with their families and work from home, our law enforcement officers continued to report to work and serve their community. We were not alone in the essential nature of our occupation. Other first responders and medical personnel also were required to report to work. My wife, who works as a nurse, reported to work that day and was assigned three COVID-19 patients to care for. As my wife and I worked, our kids remained home, as the schools have all closed.
During this difficult time, PORAC is here to help support you and your family so that you can focus on doing your job safely. I want to let you know that from the beginning, PORAC has been working on important COVID-19-related issues important to you. We want to let you know that you can focus on doing your job safely and ensuring your family’s safety while PORAC works hard for you. Your PORAC leadership team has created a list of legislative priorities related to COVID-19 and has already began to have virtual town hall meetings with law enforcement leaders and elected officials. During PORAC’s first meetings, we requested legislation and policies to ensure that: 1) our law enforcement officers have the protective equipment that they need; 2) law enforcement officers who are exposed or suspect COVID-like medical symptoms get expedited testing; 3) COVID-19 be added as a workers’ compensation presumption; 4) infected officers be given safe shelter so that they won’t infect their families and loved ones; and 5) law enforcement officers be among the first to be immunized when a vaccine is created. PORAC will continue to advocate for policies and legislation that benefit and protect our officers.
I also want to remind you about PORAC’s Hazardous Exposure Listing Program (HELP). The HELP system is a log where you can track any exposures you experience during your career. I would encourage you to log any COVID-19 exposures in PORAC’s HELP system. You can find the link to the HELP system on PORAC’s COVID-19 webpage- https://porac.org/covid19/.