Editorial Roundup: Minnesota needs to fill gap in frontline worker coverage

Published 8:50 pm Friday, February 18, 2022

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Frontline Minnesota workers were given a much-needed demonstration of support this month when a Minnesota law that protects them financially from a bout with COVID-19 was extended.

The law presumes any frontline worker who contracts COVID-19 did so at work, entitling them to workers’ compensation insurance, unless an employer can prove the infection was not work-related.

Gov. Tim Walz signed the extension into law earlier this month. St. Cloud-area legislators Rep. Dan Wolgamott, D-St. Cloud, and Sen. Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, were sponsors of the measure.

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We commend the legislators and governor for passing this extension. But there is still at least one more step to take.

The initial frontline workers compensation presumption expired Dec. 31 and was reinstated as of Feb. 7. That leaves frontline workers who contracted COVID-19 during the omicron surge of January at risk of being denied worker’s compensation coverage.

If these workers were important enough to protect as they keep our systems operating through the first part of the pandemic and the coming year, we think they are important enough to be presumptively covered for the five-week gap — five weeks that saw some of the most rampant spread of COVID-19 thanks to the omicron variant.

There’s no doubt that the workers designated as essential frontline employees were at heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection during the height of the variant’s community spread. They should not be harmed financially for the risk they took.

Just who are they? Among others, workers covered under the presumption include law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians. Also covered are health care providers, nurses or assistive employees in a health care, home care or a long-term care setting who work with COVD-19 patients. Correctional officers and security counselors at correctional facilities, and child-care providers who are required to provide child care for the children of first responders and health care workers under the governor’s Executive Orders, are also included.

Legislation to make it more likely frontline workers would receive compensation coverage during the first five weeks of the year was heard Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Labor and Industry Policy Wednesday. If passed, this legislation would fill the gap in presumptive workers compensation coverage between the expiration of this coverage.

Legislators are pushing for public support of the stopgap measure, and we lend them ours.

This legislation filling the gap should be passed. These frontline workers — people many have called the heroes of the pandemic — earned it.

St. Cloud Times, Feb. 11

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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