Mass. firefighters’ union pushing for more protections from COVID-19 for first responders

The Professional Firefighter's Union of Massachusetts is pushing for more protections during the COVID-19, asking not only for more gear to keep themselves safe but also updated information on all confirmed cases.

BOSTON — The Professional Firefighter’s Union of Massachusetts is pushing for more protections during the COVID-19, asking not only for more gear to keep themselves safe but also updated information on all confirmed cases.

Union President Rich MacKinnon says fire departments in the state should be told if someone they’re helping out has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Firefighters still don’t know if they’re responding for an emergency at a home where the virus might be present or if one of their recent patients tested positive.

“Everyone is trying to work together, everyone is wanting to do the right thing, it’s just the matter of what that is and how we get there,” said MacKinnon.

Content Continues Below

After seven firefighters in the state tested positive for COVID-19, a number that has been slowly climbing, the union i stepping up to make sure those risking their lives to save others stay safe. So far, two firefighters in Worcester, two in Boston, one in Brookline and two in Billerica have tested positive for the virus.

“So we need to know both when we transport someone to the hospital if they test positive, because then we have to track our members and who was on that call and who responded and monitor them,” said MacKinnon.

Right now, 158 firefighters have been tested for the virus, but are still waiting for results. According to MacKinnon, more than 500 have had a “documented exposure”.

Station five in Brookline had to close down this week after a firefighter tested positive and two others started showing symptoms. Due to the positive result, 11 others had to be quarantined as a precaution.

"Both of them were no longer on shift, but they did notify their superiors to make sure they receive testing,” said Dr. Swannie Jett, of the Brookline Health Department.

The union is also pushing for more protective gear for firefighters as well as priority testing for first responders, who are at a greater risk of being exposed to the virus.

MacKinnon says they’re also looking to pass legislation that would protect firefighters who are exposed to the virus under the injured while on duty law.

“So if a member got a positive [test] for COVID-19, presumed they got it while working while responding to a call, that would keep their benefits in tact as well as their health insurance intact,” said MacKinnon.