City discussing hazardous duty pay as coronavirus cases continue rising

Coronavirus

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Public Safety Director James Barber announced on Thursday, April 2, that 30 first responders tested positive for Coronavirus antibodies.

The number breaks down to 10 firefighters and 20 police officers in the City of Mobile.

First responders may have the antibodies, but that does not mean they are contagious. Safety Director Barber said results showing if any first responders are contagious could come back soon.

The antibody tests given to first responders only show if they have COVID-19 antibodies. The PCR test tells us if those first responders are actually contagious.

Director Barber said, “We cannot quarantine first responderers, we’d run out of first responders.”

There are a few exceptions. Anyone showing symptoms or who tests positive through a PCR test will quarantine. Director Barber said Mobile is two-thirds of the way through testing its first responders.

He said, “You’re seeing a disproportionate number of police officers detected versus firefighters because of the unprotected contact police officers normally have with the public.”

First responders are taking steps preventing Coronavirus like using UVC lights, which are already used for sanitation in hospitals. The lights destroy the virus, but the dangers raise the question of hazardous duty pay. Mayor Sandy Stimpson says the issue is more difficult than it appears.

He said, “You’re talking about 900 first responders. Then that throws out other questions about, you know, what about sanitation?” 

He said coronavirus is much different than a hurricane. With a hurricane, he said, at least the City has an idea of how long the situation will last. He said, “Hypothetically if you were to have to go pay everybody in the city hazardous duty pay right now, you’re going to run out of money faster and so then what do you do?”

Mayor Stimpson said he hopes to have an idea of what the City will do in terms of hazardous duty pay by Friday, April 3.

The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office already is offering hazardous duty pay, and across the bay, the City of Daphne will vote on if they’ll offer the higher pay as well on Monday.

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