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Foss: Spread of virus underscores need for sick time

Foss: Spread of virus underscores need for sick time

Foss: Spread of virus underscores need for sick time
Photographer: FILE PHOTO

Yes, I am still going about my everyday business like I normally do. 

I might be washing my hands more. 

But that's the only way the rapid spread of the coronavirus has impacted my life. 

So far. 

It's difficult to know exactly how the coronavirus outbreak will play out, in large part because so much remains unknown about the virus. 

And while it might be true that more people have died of the flu so far this year, new diseases are alarming. This one is moving fast and has no cure, which has people spooked. I'm not a big believer in panic, but I do believe in being prepared and responsive. 

If I need to work from home, or keep my son home from daycare, or cancel a trip or a social engagement, I'm prepared to do it. The possibility of any of this happening has made me thankful for a number of things, including: 

- Having a flexible job that permits me to work from home. 

- Having paid sick time that enables me to stay home without suffering a loss of income. 

The truth is, I'm in a better position to respond to a global pandemic than a lot of people. 

Not everyone can work from home. 

A lot of industries require human interaction and the carrying-out of hands-on tasks. If you're an electrician, like my husband is, there's not a lot of work you can do from the comfort of your living room. 

Not everyone has sick time, either. 

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, there are 33.6 million Americans without paid sick leave, the bulk of them low-wage workers. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to stay home from work if they have respiratory illnesses, which is good advice. 

Unfortunately, people are more likely to ignore it if they don't have paid sick leave. 

The spread of coronavirus underscores the benefits of flexible workplaces and paid sick time for both individual workers and society at large. People can take better care of themselves, and their families, and also help contain and curtail a disease outbreak by staying home. 

Of course, there's a cost to offering these benefits. 

But I'd argue that there's also a cost to not offering them - one that will become increasingly evident the longer the coronavirus outbreak goes on. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed mandating paid sick leave for most New Yorkers, and perhaps his proposal will gain traction as coronavirus cases rise.

Coronavirus or not, extending paid sick leave to all workers is a good idea. 

Everybody gets sick. 

Allowing them to get treatment and recover without putting their livelihood at risk is the right thing to do. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected] Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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