Staying Safe during the COVID-19 Outbreak

Photo of stewards at seminar

The virus fiercely traveling around the world is called a novel coronavirus. Scientists believe the virus may have transferred from bats to humans; it is “novel” because humans have never before been exposed to it and have no immunity to it. And because it is so new, no vaccines or treatments are yet available.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by this particular coronavirus. Symptoms include fever and/or symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as coughing or difficulty breathing.

It is estimated that more than half of all Californians will contract the coronavirus.

Some may be asymptomatic, which means they won’t know they have it and yet can easily infect others. Most will have mild to moderate symptoms; moderate is when you have pneumonia but don’t need to be hospitalized. A small percentage, particularly the elderly (people over 60) and those with underlying diseases, are more likely to have severe or fatal symptoms. In California, that number could reach upwards of 100,000 people, and would overwhelm the health care system.

If you’ve lost your job due to temporary or permanent closure, or if you think you’re sick, see the chart below, put together by the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and the Beeson Tayer & Bodine law firm. You’ve no doubt heard the term “social distancing.” Please follow the guidelines carefully, not only for yourself but for your loved ones. Here are some steps to take:

For all workers:

  • Don’t go to work if you are feeling sick.
  • Don’t shake hands when greeting others.
  • Avoid large gatherings or meetings.
  • Try to stay six feet away from others on job sites and in gatherings, meetings, and training sessions.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissues if you cough or sneeze or do so into your elbow. And clean your hands after.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.

Employers should also:

  • Create at least 6 feet of space between workers by staging/staggering crews to prevent droplet spread.
  • Plan for office staff to have the ability to work from home.
  • Provide soap and running water on all jobsites for frequent hand-washing. If that is impossible, provide hand sanitizer.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces on job sites and in offices — such as hand rails, door knobs, and portable toilets — frequently, per CDC guidelines: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/ community/organizations/cleaningdisinfection.html

In the long run:

Across the state, worker organizations are fighting for emergency legislation that will:

  • require all employers to offer 14 days of paid sick leave, with anti- retaliation protections for workers who are taking paid leave or are quarantined.
  • Immediate protections for workers, including right of recall, ensuring employers do not use the crisis to unfairly fire workers, and securing worker retention in case companies are sold.
  • Access to services and assistance for everyone, regardless of immigration status, to receive testing, treatment and all public resources available to combat this crisis.
  • Housing protections to ensure a moratorium on rental evictions for residents and small businesses, as well as a moratorium on all foreclosures.
  • Unemployment Insurance protections, including UI for all workers.