FL Lawmaker: FFs Should 'Take One for Team' with Pandemic

March 16, 2020
A Miami Beach commissioner suggested first responders who survive the coronavirus and then have immunity should work with the city to help other residents.

Editor's note: Find Firehouse.com's complete coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic here.

A South Florida leader appeared to propose putting firefighters in harm’s way once they’re out of quarantine with the new coronavirus.

Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola on Friday at an emergency city meeting asked if there were doctors in the audience. Nobody answered. He suggested that if people who survive the coronavirus then have immunity — like the chicken pox — then the city can take steps to help others.

“Assuming you make it through,” Arriola said, before describing what he called a “dangerous but bold” idea: “First responders voluntarily taking one for the team” and then developing immunity.

Arriola did not elaborate what he meant by the phrase “taking one for the team."

“It is our job to think boldly,” he said, according to the taped meeting which was circulating among firefighters’ social media accounts Sunday.

Arriola got push-back from his comments and responded on Facebook acknowledging he got “some flack" for suggesting responders get “deliberate, controlled and voluntary exposure.”

He said on Facebook he would be the first to volunteer.

“If my remarks offended any first responders, I apologize. You are the bravest among us — you run into burning buildings, take bullets, expose yourself to infectious diseases for a living. All of this you do everyday to make our community safe! Thank you. With that said, it’s our job as policy makers and as first responders to ask difficult questions and prepare for horrible scenarios,” he wrote.

“What does a doctor do when the ER room is full and he has limited respirators and has to decide whether an 80 year old grandmother gets it or a 40 year old father of 3? Difficult times lay ahead. Difficult conversations and decisions will need to be made. But we live in an environment where asking these questions out loud leads to criticism and mockery. Sorry folks, I won’t be intimidated from asking hard questions and throwing out ideas. This is how nothing gets done and in these times, we need plans, back up plans and back up plans to the back up plans.”

Margate Fire Battalion Chief Ty Vassil is Facebook friends with the commissioner but doesn’t know him personally.

“I thought the remark was unfortunate,” he said Sunday. “I think it’s just rhetoric, thinking out loud. It pisses us off. How much do you want, really?

“I think these guys sacrifice enough, working day to day, we’re going to be looking at shortages and we’re certainly going to be in the front line of getting sick — but all in due time. I think its thoughtless rhetoric. You are thinking of your firefighters as equipment. It’s a poor strategy to put your firefighter’s in harm’s way.”

A group identifying itself as a law enforcement charity had an opinion, too, when it shared the video.

“In one of the most absurd statements we have heard in a while, City of Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola asks if First Responders should ‘take one for the team’ in case one develops an immunity after having the Corona Virus,” Team South Florida posted. “Perhaps Commissioner Arriola wants to give this a try first and then let us know how it goes?”


©2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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