The coronavirus health crisis is getting serious: closed educational centers, sporting events without an audience, conferences, congresses and appointments, canceled cultures and many empty companies with their workers working from home. These restrictive measures have put many citizens on guard, and raised a concern of how their lives will change now that the pandemic is affecting their work.
While white collar workers avoiding exposure can work from home or call in sick if they experience symptoms of the virus, that’s not an option for the millions of blue collar workers such as waiters, delivery workers, cashiers, ride-hailing drivers, museum attendants and countless others who routinely come into contact with the public. Their dilemma is also further worsened by bad sick leave policies or inadequate health insurance coverage, leaving them vulnerable to the fast-spreading coronavirus that has already claimed thousands of lives and put them in a financially detrimental positions.
The recommendations on what people should be doing to protect themselves really gives a sharp indication of the divide between white collar and blue collar workers. Missing work because of illness may mean missing a paycheck. Our social safety net is just not equipped at this moment to deal with a crisis like this, and it will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable low wage workers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 29% of U.S. workers have the option of working from home, which means retail workers must look out after themselves. For example, a cashier in Atlanta serves hundreds of people a day and her big worry is what will happen to her income if she is infected with the virus or comes in contact with someone who’s had it and must self-quarantine for 14 days.
In the United States, about 27% of private sector workers don’t have access to paid sick leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The people who make and serve food, deliver goods, work in large factories, and keep retail stores open could face serious impacts from a coronavirus outbreak. Barbers, fast food workers, housekeeping, and sanitation workers all work in close physical proximity to customers or in environments that place them at risk of exposure to the virus. Retail salespersons, concierges, restaurant servers, and cashiers all work directly with the public, putting them into potential exposure with those infected with the coronavirus.
So what can your employer and you do at work to protect yourself from exposure? The Center for Control Disease has given the following guidelines:
For more information, please visit the Center for Control Disease and Prevention Website.