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Posted By: Council 93

Editor's Note: The day after this story was finalized, Sgt. Tony DeMarco came down with symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, he is recovering in self-isolation and hopes to return to his job shortly.

Tony is just like any of the direct care workers, public health nurses, custodians, public works professionals, corrections officers, and so many other public service workers across our region and the country are maintaining essential services — all at great risk of contracting the coronavirus. We're on the front lines of this pandemic and doing everything we can to protect our communities at all costs and too often without the health and safety resources that we need.

Our state and local government budgets are reeling from this crisis. We need greater investment in our health care systems, our schools and our workplaces.

Tell Congress to fund the front lines. We're doing our jobs. We need Congress to do theirs.

Boston, MA- Tony DeMarco is used to being in close contact with dangerous situations as a Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) Police Sergeant dealing with some of Boston's most vulnerable homeless and drug addicted populations, but the COVID-19 crisis has added unanticipated levels of stress and anxiety to an already stressful and dangerous job.

DeMarco, Vice President of Local 787, and all of the BPHC Police Officers have been working their regular schedule during the COVID-19 pandemic and performing to the same high standards. BPHC Police Officers are deputized special police officers responsible for the safety and well-being of the public while on BPHC Campus properties throughout Boston.

DeMarco is deeply concerned for well-being of all the BPHC officers and staff, "we are working daily with a lack of supplies. Yes, we have hand sanitizer, but there is a lot more that we are in need of as far as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Safety items are in high demand; many officers do not have the proper PPE; we are being issued one mask that is essentially a painter's mask not an N95."

PPE is essential for front line workers and has been shown to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, this potentially lifesaving equipment is in short supply as the crisis spreads. In response to the nationwide PPE shortages, AFSCME has been working tirelessly to urge action from the federal government so that front line workers have the protection they need to keep themselves and their communities safe.

The work of any police officer can be dangerous under the best of circumstances, but the added pressures and stress of keeping the peace during a global health pandemic heighten the dangers of the job. BPHC officers are routinely in close physical contact with the public greatly increasing their odds of contracting COVID-19. On a daily basis, officers deal restraining emotionally disturbed individuals so they do not harm themselves or others; regular drug over doses; arrests; or removal of individuals from BPHC property. DeMarco noted that "many of the programs are ignoring the six-foot rules, people are huddled up in groups around the facilities, and in the event of a conflict that requires a physical resolution our officers are putting themselves at greater risk of exposure."

"As an essential worker you realize you're not going to be safe and sound working from home, you're on the front lines asked to continue performing knowing your risk of transmitting this disease is much greater than people staying home," DeMarco shared when asked about his feelings on being an essential employee. "The worst part is the possibility arises you could become a carrier and unwillingly cross contaminate your family when you go home. As a professional I accept the responsibilities we as a department are needed in order to continue the daily function of people's lives but you wonder if that feeling is shared about you from others."

"The day-to-day work being done by Tony and all of the BPHC officers on the front lines during this fight is truly incredible and just one of thousands of examples of AFSCME members working every day across New England and throughout the country to ensure our communities continue to function," said Council 93 Executive Director Mark Bernard. "The least that we can do is ensure that the men and women working on the front lines have the proper equipment to keep themselves safe during this crisis."

DeMarco lamented "I wish I had something positive to tell you other than the respect I have for all of us thrown into this quagmire with nobody looking for a way out. Honestly it's as much the ignorance of people as it is the disease. When you see parks full with kids playing on swings, playing basketball, or at a beach when others are scavenging for medical supplies to hopefully stay safe at work dealing hands on with a historic epidemic that's effected a half million people and counting it's mindboggling."

To end on a positive note, DeMarco noted that "everyone says 'Stay Safe' now. It's the new 'Boston Strong' phrase. It used to be one law enforcement agency to another, but now it's everyone urging safety."



AFSCME Council 93

AFSCME Council 93 represents more than 45,000 state, county and municipal employees in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

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