Coronavirus outbreak reveals flaws in US policy

Forbes

Sean Mauro, Staff Writer

The coronavirus spread in the U.S. has continued to grow in severity, with the number of confirmed cases now reaching tens of thousands.

The rate at which the virus is spreading reveals just how unprepared the country is for a pandemic of this nature. Several policy changes relating to how the U.S. treats its low wage workers would likely help slow the spread of the virus.

First and foremost, the U.S. should guarantee paid sick leave to workers. When workers cannot get the time off from work when exhibiting symptoms and need the work hours to pay their bills, they may end up coming into work sick and infect numerous people with the virus.

The U.S. should guarantee sick leave regardless of the circumstances. However, even in this trying time, the best our government has done is pass a temporary sick leave law that does not cover all workers.

According to the New York Times, the new emergency sick leave law will not cover “Those at companies with more than 500 people — 48 percent of American workers – are excluded.” Those who are working in small to midsize companies and are exhibiting symptoms will receive two weeks, and those caring for sick children will receive 12 weeks.

The law should cover all workers as those working for large companies pose a great risk of spreading the virus. Furthermore, two weeks sick leave is not nearly enough time to fully recover form the virus and prevent its spread, especially considering its incubation period.

This is especially concerning for low wage workers in service jobs who will be interacting with the public. These people will have the greatest issue getting out of work because they will pose the greatest threat to the public if they come to work sick.

In some cases, these workers cannot afford to miss a day of work because they live paycheck to paycheck and need the money to make ends meet. With the federal minimum wage at $10 per hour, minimum wage workers will find it extremely difficult just to survive in these times.

The U.S. should have a reasonable minimum wage that full-time workers can live off of. If minimum wage workers made $15 an hour or more, they might’ve had more income available to stay afloat during this pandemic.

The spread of the coronavirus has also revealed the country’s need for universal health care.

In the current system, people exhibiting symptoms who cannot afford to go to the doctor may end up continuing their normal routines without consulting doctors. This causes the virus to spread, as people who are reluctant to go to the doctor. They won’t get tested and may spread the virus. Additionally, people who are infected must receive the care they need to fight the virus.

Lastly, the U.S. should find a way to protect the income of its workers. The quarantine will likely cause many businesses to fail in the coming months due to a combination of a lack of business and an inability to open.

Without any protection of people’s jobs and income, we will enter a debilitating recession. The federal reserve instead invested $1.5 trillion in loans to Wall Street, which proved to result in little economic relief.

The government should give money to working people instead, so they will have the resources to keep themselves financially stable and continue to put money into the economy during this pandemic.

Without addressing any of these issues, the coronavirus outbreak will continue to grow even more severe and will result in even greater economic collapse than we have seen thus far.