Essential Workers

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COVID Exacts a Heavy Toll on Essential Workers


Low Pay, Low Prestige, and Stark Choices

Members of the essential workforce, comprising 62 million primarily women and underrepresented minorities (URMs), face a stark choice: keep working or lose their jobs.

Many jobs require close physical proximity to others and frequent face-to-face interactions that increase potential disease exposure. Physical distancing is an unattainable luxury. Essential workers expose themselves and their families to the COVID virus every day. For them, the economy never closed.

So, essential workers live in fear as they struggle with mental and physical health problems caused by constant stress, frequently exacerbated by sleep disorders. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), one in four essential workers report difficulty affording basic household expenses, including food and utilities.

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Protect the Workforce We All Rely On

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Since essential businesses, such as grocery stores, distribution warehouses, and delivery services must keep operating — even with mounting COVID infections and deaths — their employees must be protected. Not only is it the right and necessary thing to do, employers risk a tsunami of bad press if they don’t do enough to protect worker health.

The CDC, WHO, and other governmental organizations have published recommendations for all businesses that remain open. By now, it’s a familiar list. 

  • Prescreen: Employers should perform health checks, including temperature screening, before an individual enters the workplace.
  • Self-monitor: Employees should self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.
  • Wear personal protective equipment: Face masks and gloves should be worn at all times.
  • Social distance: Practice social distancing as work responsibilities permit.
  • Enhance sanitation procedures: Routinely clean and disinfect areas such as offices, bathrooms, and break rooms, as well as shared electronic equipment.
  • Keep hand sanitizer readily available.