Could Paid Sick Leave Lessen The Spread Of The Coronavirus?

Jan 28, 2021

A new report says that if people could afford to stay home while fighting COVID-19, it would greatly slow the spread of the virus. 

Jonathan Heller coauthored the report for the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. He says one in five people is exposed to COVID-19 while at work, and many are essential workers and people of color who don’t have paid sick days. 

“The need for essential workers to leave their homes to go to work has contributed to the inequitable impact the pandemic has had. Importantly, many employers of these essential workers do not provide paid time off when workers are impacted by COVID-19,” Heller says. 

Heller says thousands of workplace outbreaks are currently under investigation in Wisconsin.

At the start of the month, paid leave provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act ended. President Joe Biden has called for legislation that would reinstate and expand that leave, paying people up to $1,400 a week. That’s the equivalent of about $73,000 a year.

Belinda Thielen, with Voces De La Frontera, says Congress needs to act now. 

“Many workers simply cannot afford the loss of income that isolation or quarantine would entail. Workers who take the necessary time off from work risk disciplinary action or termination,” she says.

When it comes to Congressional support, Wisconsin Republicans in both the House and the Senate voted against the first bill signed into law by then President Donald Trump. WUWM reached out to those same Republicans to find out if they would support the proposed legislation but did not hear back in time for this story. 

Across the state, more than 536,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 5,700 people have died.