Advocates, Officers Push for Clarity on COVID-19 Health Coverage

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Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, death caused by the virus has become the number one line of duty death for law enforcement officers in America - with over 100 dying since March.

“Thinking back on it, it did happen so quick,” said Sgt. Vicente Remediz, who works for Dallas ISD Police.

Remediz contracted COVID-19 in April and became severely ill and spent over 100 days in the hospital. Much of that time, Remediz was on a ventilator and in a coma.

“My walking, my leg muscles and my lungs because of the ventilator are still damaged and weak,” said Remediz.

But in many ways, he was lucky not just to survive but have his illness classified as a line of duty illness. Right now, there is no uniform designation that COVID-19 is a line of duty illness for first responders, something law enforcement advocacy groups say is causing huge problems.

“Most importantly what we are fighting for right now are those who have died from COVID-19 and yes a lot of those families have been denied benefits already,” said Jennifer Szimanski with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.

In Texas, 33 law enforcement officers have been killed by the virus since March and in Dallas and Fort Worth alone, 280 have contracted COVID-19.

“We are advocating for first responders to have those that have contracted COVID, to have it presumed they contracted it during the line of duty,” said State Representative Ana-Maria Ramos.

Both Ramos and Szimanski said they hope Governor Greg Abbott will sign an executive order making it uniform statewide that COVID-19 is a line of duty illness.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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