COVID-19 claims life of beloved Chandler officer - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

COVID-19 claims life of beloved Chandler officer

January 19th, 2021 SanTan Sun News
COVID-19 claims life of beloved Chandler officer

By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

More than 130 of Chandler’s public safety employees have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last year and one of them last week recently succumbed to the coronavirus.
Officer Tyler Britt, a 19-year veteran of the Chandler Police Department, died Jan. 11 after contracting COVID-19 a couple weeks earlier.
Survived by his wife and son, Officer Britt is one of the first known casualties reported among Chandler’s personnel since the pandemic began 10 months ago.
The department said its staff was deeply saddened by his passing, noting the “protracted battle” he put up against the virus.
“Officer Britt loved being a police officer and cared dearly about the community he served,” it said.
Friends have described Officer Britt online as an “amazing” man, an exemplary role model and an officer who genuinely loved his job.
The pandemic has caused officer deaths to spike nationwide by 300 percent over the last year, making 2020 one of the deadliest years for law enforcement since 1974, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Though more than 140 officers from across the country have died due to COVID-related illnesses, Officer Britt is only one of a few officers in Arizona to succumb to the virus.
An officer from the Navajo Police Department in June was the state’s first known COVID-related death among law enforcement. A couple weeks later, a longtime Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputy succumbed to the disease.
Officer Britt’s death has served as a somber reminder of the risk Chandler’s employees have faced doing their jobs while the coronavirus has continued to proliferate across the Valley.
As of Jan. 11, the city had 234 of its employees test positive for COVID-19 and 133 of these cases involved workers from Chandler’s police and fire departments.
In order to accommodate staff suffering from COVID-19, City Council has recently extended a sick-leave policy that offers 80 hours of time off for employees who test positive for the virus.
Many municipalities and businesses started offering this extra benefit after Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act back in March.
The legislation forced certain employers to provide extended sick leave to workers who caught the virus or who needed to care for a quarantined family member.
Congress did not renew the FFCRA policy after it expired Dec. 31 but Chandler has decided to extend the benefit for its workers until the end of March.
Matt Burdick, a city spokesperson, said Chandler will be tracking how many employees need the sick leave in the coming months and may extend the policy again depending on how the pandemic plays out.
“We will continue to monitor the current situation and extend the policy beyond March 31 as needed,” he said.
At least 220 Chandler employees have utilized the FFCRA sick leave since the legislation was passed.
Gilbert, which has seen 129 town public safety employees contract COVID-19, also its FFCRA policy despite the federal mandate expiring last month.
Gilbert officials believe the extension was necessary since more employees might catch the virus this month. Yet the town doesn’t expect it will need to extend the FFCRA benefit until the end of 2021.
Some advocacy groups are hoping President-elect Joe Biden will consider renewing the FFCRA mandates in the economic recovery packages he’s expected to introduce after assuming office.
PL+US, an organization that lobbies for paid-leave policies in various sectors, is pushing for the federal government to ensure paid sick leave will be available for all workers as the country continues to feel the pandemic’s repercussions.
“Now is the time to seize the bipartisan momentum for paid leave to provide economic security to families and businesses, protect public health, and support our nation’s economic recovery,” PL+US recently wrote in a letter to the incoming administration.