500 Health Experts Sign Letter Demanding Paid Leave Before Schools Reopen

by Christina Marfice
Student prepared for class according to coronavirus rules

Schools can’t open until we have paid leave for all families and workers who might get sick, health experts say

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (and the fact that more than 150,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, more than in any other country), America is the only developed nation on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave to all workers. Now, as we look toward reopening schools in much of the country within just weeks, health experts across the nation are calling on the White House to establish a paid leave policy for families and all workers.

More than 500 health professionals signed a letter calling for universal paid family a sick leave. The letter was sent on Monday to White House, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar II. An organization called Paid Leave For All organized the letter, and in it, called on Congress to expand emergency benefits they put in place early on in the coronavirus pandemic.

“As public health professionals and organizations dedicated to protecting the public’s health, we know that access to comprehensive paid leave is critical to being able to safely return to in-person instruction,” the letter reads. “We write to urge the administration and Congress to ensure universal access to emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave through 2021.”

The letter itself is just two-and-a-half pages long, but is then followed by nearly 14 pages of the names of medical professionals and health experts who signed it. They work in healthcare — they all know that paid sick leave gives workers the option to stay home when they’re sick, and helps slow the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

As the letter sent to the White House puts it, “Meaningful paid leave that covers everyone is one of our strongest tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act which Congress passed in March guaranteed some paid sick leave for individuals impacted by COVID-19. Yet up to 106 million private-sector workers lack the emergency paid sick days that would ensure a safer reopening.”

The administration’s current policy does offer emergency paid family and sick leave for workers, but excludes those who work for companies with 500 or more workers — which means many front-line workers, like those who stock shelves and man cash registers at grocery stores, aren’t covered. Without guaranteed paid sick leave, workers are pressured to continue working even when they’re sick, in order to keep paying their bills. This helps illnesses like COVID-19 spread.

Paid Leave For All is also coordinating a text program and call storm to the senate to rally for paid leave today at 3pm EST.

The CDC has warned that schools may be of the “highest risk” in helping the coronavirus spread, but under pressure from the administration, has issued guidelines for them to reopen. If schools are going to be open, we must at least provide protection for workers — and paid sick leave so they can stay home if and when they get sick.