Doctors urge Virginia lawmakers to require paid sick leave for essential workers

Doctors urge Virginia lawmakers to require paid sick leave for essential workers
Some Virginia doctors say patients are choosing a paycheck over their health. (Source: WIS/File)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Some Virginia doctors are sending a loud message to state lawmakers, urging them to extend paid sick leave for workers across the Commonwealth.

They say there’s no time to wait because they’ve come across patients who show up to work sick because they have to put food on the table.

With more contagious strains of COVID-19 spreading, they don’t want anyone to have to choose between a paycheck and public health. The CDC has made it clear: If you have a fever or feel sick, stay home.

“How can an employee stay home if they don’t have paid leave, and if every penny that they generate goes to their families and they don’t have any spare change so if they take time off, they lose important money for their family,” said Dr. Greg Gelburd.

Speaking as a member of the Committee to Protect Medicare, Gelburd says he’s aware of some patients who still report to work sick, even after testing positive for COVID-19.

“They go to work, clock in, stay silent about their own illness or possibly their own known diagnosis and increase the risk, obviously, of spreading diseases,” Gelburd said.

Although that’s very dangerous, he understands why it’s happening.

“Some businesses will lay off their workers if they don’t show up - sick or not - and of course this spreads COVID quickly,” he said.

That’s why several medical experts in Virginia are calling on state lawmakers to pass House Bill 2137. It requires companies to provide paid sick leave to essential workers who work at least 20 hours a week or 90 hours a month.

“The people least likely to have paid sick days are essential workers,” Dr. Gelburd added.

For example, some restaurant workers, child care providers, and cleaning and maintenance staff may all fall under this category.

“While many of us can work remotely from home, as we are today, our front line workers have no choice but to be around other people during their workday…If all employees have paid sick leave, everybody is equal,” he said.

The bill already passed in the House, but now it’s up for debate in the Senate. Doctors are concerned because the current General Assembly sessions is about to wrap up. That’s why they’re speaking out.

You can hear those doctors’ complete thoughts, here.

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