Bill would stiffen penalties for assaults with body fluids

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The Vermont Senate is considering a bill that would set new penalties of up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine for assaulting police, firefighters or emergency room workers with bodily fluids.

Supporters of the bill call such assaults degrading and dangerous because they can spread disease. The bill is modeled on similar protections passed recently for staff in the Department of Corrections.

President and CEO of the Vermont Association of Hospitals Bea Grause supports the bill. Grause is a former ER nurse. She says hospitals sometimes are a dangerous place to work because of assaults on medical staff.

But Defender General Matt Valerio says the bill’s supporters are exaggerating the problem. He says he’s heard nothing during his seven years on his job to indicate the need for such stepped-up penalties.

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