Worker safety advocates from the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) and the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) expressed concern at the newly released coronavirus guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Under the revised guidelines, employers can mandate that workers who have been exposed to coronavirus continue to work while pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, despite evidence this deadly disease can spread up to 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. Reports of essential workers dying on the job from the COVID-19 pandemic underscore the need for additional protection, not less.
“CDC’s flawed guidance contradicts its previous guidance for businesses and its current recommendations for members of the public who’ve been exposed to coronavirus, which is to quarantine for 14 days after a potential exposure,” said Matthew Shudtz, Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Reform. “Forcing our nation’s essential workers to remain on the job after exposure poses great risks, not just to their health, but to their coworkers, their families, and the community at large.”
What’s needed say safety advocates, is the immediate implementation of protective safeguards, guaranteed paid sick leave for all workers in these critical sectors, a presumption that infection occurred at work so that the workers are eligible for workers’ compensation and other benefits. All workplaces that are not truly essential should be closed to focus resources on critical sectors.
“With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across the country, this guidance threatens to undo any gains made by states working desperately to prevent deadly exposures and save lives,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). “This unsound guidance sends the message to our critical frontline workers that their government and employers view them as expendable.”
CPR and National COSH are calling on the CDC to ensure that businesses are provided with science-based guidelines that focus on preventing workers, their families, and their communities from contracting COVID-19.