Tulsa Firefighters, Police Reflect On COVID-19 Being Leading Cause Of Death For First Responders


Wednesday, October 6th 2021, 9:38 pm
By: Grant Stephens


TULSA, Oklahoma -

The Officer Down Memorial Page said COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death for first responders.

The page lists 216 officers across the country who died from COVID-19 this year. They said that's double the number killed by gunfire, car crashes, assault and heart attacks combined.

It's a heavy burden on the shoulders of first responders, who say it doesn't just affect the job but the safety of their families.

Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police Union President Jeff Downs said despite rising case numbers, the delta variant, and hospitals full of patients, first responders don't have a choice. They still need to show up.

“It elevates the anxiety. I mean it’s another threat that officers have to deal with every day,” Downs said.

Tulsa Firefighters Union President Matt Lay said firefighters are struggling as well.

“Right about the time you start to think, ‘hey I think we’re past the worst of it,’ you know, here comes another strain or another surge," Lay said.

Lay said that's how the last few months have felt; anxiety punctuated by yet another friend in the hospital, or for Downs, another funeral.

“In the last four weeks, we’ve had three funerals of local officers in the Tulsa County area that have died because of COVID," Downs said.

Lay said first responders have learned to adapt and learned how lean on one another so they can continue serving.

"The one thing I think that binds us all together is a desire to serve our fellow man. And so even when there are new threats and there’s new hazards and things that can hurt us, we don’t back down," Lay said.

Both men say one of the biggest things other first responders and you can do to ease that burden is to get vaccinated.

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