Disney First Responders Struggle With COVID Outbreak, Lack of Support

in Walt Disney World

Reedy Creek Fire Dept.

Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

Sometimes, it’s hard to think that anything bad could ever be going on at The Most Magical Place on Earth. Guests visiting Walt Disney World Resort can feel insulated against the world, but with the increase in COVID cases throughout the country, that insulation is getting harder to maintain. Not only are Guests risking their health when they put themselves in large theme park crowds, but also Cast Members throughout all corners of the Orlando Resort are at risk, as well.

cast member
Credit: Disney

One area where the effects of COVID are hitting especially hard is at the Reedy Creek Fire Department. The Reedy Creek Fire Department is Disney World’s fire department, and according to its website, “maintains four fire stations located throughout the District and provides fire, rescue, and emergency management services for the citizens and visitors of the City of Bay Lake and City of Lake Buena Vista.”

Reedy Creek Fire Department
Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department Website

It has now been reported that, in just over two weeks, 90 members of the staff of 205 Reedy Creek Fire Department first responders have been exposed to COVID-19 after two workers tested positive — 10 of those exposed have since tested positive for the virus. And while those who test positive for COVID are supposed to quarantine and not work, Reedy Creek workers are reportedly coming into work because they don’t feel that they have another option.

Reedy Creek Fire Department
Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

In a new report from local Central Florida news source Orlando Sentinel, Reedy Creek first responders say that they feel that they are not getting the support that they need in order to combat the highly contagious virus. Per the Sentinel article, employees do not receive sick pay or any type of compensation if they are unable to work because of COVID, which leaves employees feeling they must show up because they can’t sacrifice their pay.

Reedy Creek Fire Department
Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

Jon Shirey, President of the Reedy Creek Fire Department Association, said the following to the Sentinel:

“If we’re sick or hurt, we can’t really help the people that we’re supposed to be serving,” Shirey said. “… And it’s not a good feeling for us. We got into this profession because we like to help people, not because we want to hurt people or we’re gonna get them sick.”

Last summer, during the then height of the pandemic, a policy was instituted where Reedy Creek first responders could use administrative leave if they had to quarantine due to COVID exposure, but personal time if they tested positive. However, that policy has since been reversed and employees must use personal time for both quarantine and any time needed off due to a positive COVID test.

Reedy Creek Fire Department
Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

While most employees of the Fire Department are vaccinated and wear masks while indoors, staying completely safe is not always possible due to the fact that they work, eat, and sleep together as they work 24-hour shifts. Orlando Fire Department employees are allowed to file a workman’s compensation claim, so they can receive pay if they test positive for COVID, but are being denied because it is so hard to prove exactly where they contracted the virus.

Reedy Creek Fire Department
Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

Even though they are being denied, at least some of the Reedy Creek employees are fighting their compensation denial, and several of those cases have been settled with the help of a first responders’ attorney and the Reedy Creek Firefighters union.

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