The coronavirus outbreak is expected to have the worst impact on the black and Hispanic populations.
Donald Trump has enforced a travel ban and declared COVID-19 a national pandemic, banning gathering of more than 500 people and leading to the cancellations of major events, as more than 3,000 cases of have been confirmed in the US.
With self-quarantining actions in place, low-wage workers in the industries that rely on tips or have zero-hour contracts, are being forced to decide between immediately cutting their income by missing shifts without sick leave, or showing up to work and risking infection.
The travel and leisure and hospitality industries are suffering due to the outbreak, hotel employees have especially noticed.
Trump has also announced tax cut plans to relieve the economic pressures from employees and employers but House Democrats have blasted the moves for failing to take into account the groups who are more likely to miss out on payment altogether due to unemployment.
The unemployment rate is higher among black people no matter the education level or age, and on average, the time it takes for black workers to obtain employment tends to be longer.
To add further injury, studies have found that lower-wage workers are ‘less likely to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms’, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) senior economist Elise Gould has said.
A 2016 Yale study found that the poor are twice as likely to get ill from the flu than those who live in wealthier areas.
It comes as the country steps up moves to prevent the community spread of coronavirus and the number of confirmed cases increases.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that companies allow workers to carry out their jobs from remote locations where possible. However Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) statistics show of people who could from from home, a higher percentage of white people, 25.6 percent, (compared to 17.6 percent of black people).
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has advised commuters avoid riding the subway unless absolutely necessary. However the black and Hispanic populations are twice as likely to be in the lower-income group and those workers are less likely to have the option to work from home.
Speaking about workers who rely on tipping, EPI senior economist Gould said: ‘It’s a little bit of a snowball effect for that population. They are more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck, and will have a harder time because they have limited resources.
‘This is highlighting the vast inequality in this country. And some people are going to get hurt so much more than others. That hurt could be long lasting. We don’t know. We don’t know what’s going to happen over the course of this virus.’
Officials have said they expect the pandemic to last at least six months.
Only a third (29 percent) of the workforce in the United States is able to work from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
In the hospitality and leisure industries only 9 percent have the ability to work from home. By comparison over 50 percent of workers in information, financial activities, and professional and business services can work from home.
BLS states 32 million workers in the United States don’t have access to paid sick leave.
The BLS states that 92 percent of higher-income workers get paid sick leave. Of the lower salaried earners only 10 per received paid sick leave.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) states that only 48 percent of workers in the leisure and hospitality sectors have paid sick leave. The quarantine time for coronavirus is 14 days.
Furthermore Roxana Rivera, vice president of local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union told the Boston Globe: ‘Workers shouldn’t have to burn through their sick days and be forced to go without pay if they catch the coronavirus, particularly when the cause is their own workplace.’
Rivera represents hundreds of airport workers.
According to stats from 2017, the working-poor rate for both black people and Latino or Hispanic groups was 7.9 percent – compared to 3.9 percent for white people. Black or African American women were worst off, with 10 percent classified as working-poor. That’s compared to 9 percent of Hispanic women and only 3.5 percent white men.
Of the total working-poor populations, 36 percent were employed in service occupations (2.3 million) made of the group. Among those employed in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, 6.0 percent were classified as working poor.
‘There’s a lot of occupational segregation in this country,’ Gould explained. ‘So when we think of those low-wage workers they’re more likely to be women, black and Hispanic workers. This could hit some communities more than others.
‘We don’t know what will happen when people can’t pay their rent or their mortgage. Will we see the economic devastation spread? Will the government step up?’
The House introduced the Families First Coronavirus Response Act this week and the bill that would provide food assistance, paid sick leave, and extra funds for unemployment insurance benefits.
Betania Shephard, 33, told the Philadelphia Inquirer she was already losing work.
The mother-of-two earns an hourly wage and has failed to secure enough work since the outbreak.
‘We don’t have health insurance, so things are complicated, because if we go to the doctor, we have to pay cash,’ Shephard said. ‘If I’m not working, how can I pay those bills?’
Elsewhere in Philadelphia, Robyn Thornton, a housekeeper at the Hilton Garden Inn by Reading Terminal Market, is a 35-year-old mother of a six-year-old boy who has been placed on call and is concerned about paying her rent and bills.
‘When I don’t have the funding to be able to pay rent, it’s like, the landlord don’t wanna hear that,’ she said.
In the state where gatherings of 1,000 people or more have been banned, said Dermot Delude-Dix, a research analyst with UNITE HERE said: ‘The majority of our local is out of work right now.’
Delude-Dix is concerned that people being laid off will not be able to get treated for coronavirus is they are unemployed.
‘Our position is, no one should lose their health insurance because of the coronavirus,’ Delude-Dix added.
Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said that hotels that used to have occupancy rates of around 80 percent are down to 30 percent, or even as low as 10 percent for those that relied on occupancy from hosting large gatherings.
He said a hotel manager there was concerned he wouldn’t be able to pay staff until the end of next month.
‘They are doing their best to make sure that their folks are taken care of,’ Grose said, ‘but there is not much they can do when you’re looking at rock-bottom occupancy rates.’
In Philadelphia all schools were closed Friday. It has meant lower-income families suffer financially even more as they have to make the choice to stay home and take care of their children or head out to work and risk getting ill.
‘I earn too little to pay a babysitter,’ she said. ‘I don’t know what my options would be.’
It prompted Ayesha and Steph Curry to address the strain the COVID-19 pandemic is having on low income families who reply on school meals to feed their children for one or two meals a day.
The basketball star and his culinary expert wife’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation is working with the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland California, which counts Hispanic and black populations as the main clientele.
‘We know the world is changing before our eyes in terms of dealing with the spread of coronavirus and we just found out that the Oakland Unified School District is closing the doors for the foreseeable future, so we want to intercede on behalf of the kids that rely on the daily services and try to help anyway we can,’ Steph said in a video shared on social media.
A total of 29.7 million children benefit from the National School Lunch Program.
‘The statistics are really staggering. At least 18,000 kids rely on at least two meals a day from the school system, so we want to make sure that we rally around everyone and ensure that these kids are not wondering where their next meal is coming from,’ Alesha added.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING TESTED FOR CORONAVIRUS
On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that any American can be tested for coronavirus as long as a doctor approves it.
The move appears to expand upon previous criteria needed for testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But how do you determine if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and when you should see a doctor?
We break down everything you need to know about being tested for the virus that has infected more than 120 Americans and killed at least nine.
WHAT ARE THE LATEST GUIDELINES FOR BEING TESTED?
There are three groups of people that the CDC recommends get tested.
1. People with symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath who have been in ‘close contact’ with someone confirmed to have coronavirus
2. Patients with symptoms who have traveled to areas affected by the virus within the last 14 days
3. Those with symptoms who need to be hospitalized and no other cause for their illness is found. They don’t need to have a travel history or exposure to another patient
HOW DOES THIS DIFFER FROM THE PREVIOUS CRITERIA?
When the CDC first began testing, only those with a travel history to China – where the outbreak emerged – or those who had been exposed to a confirmed coronavirus patient were tested.
However, the agency says its criteria for testing is always ‘subject to change as additional information becomes available.’
WHAT TO DO IF YOU NEED A TEST?
Health officials strongly advise that anyone who believes they may be infected not show up unannounced at their doctor’s office in case they expose others to the highly-contagious disease.
Instead, the CDC suggests immediately calling your physician or healthcare provider.
‘Your healthcare professional will work with your state’s public health department and CDC to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19,’ the CDC’s website states.
If you are suspected of having the virus, you will most likely get tested at a hospital.
The test involves getting a swab of the patient’s nostril and throat. If the patient has a wet cough, a sample of sputum (a mixture of saliva and mucus) will also be collected.
WHY HAS IT BEEN DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE TO GET TESTED?
There have been multiple reports of people not having accessing to get tested.
The first batch of test kits that the CDC sent to state and local health departments were faulty, which led to a delay.
Secondly, the CDC had strict criteria for testing, which led to missed diagnoses of people who caught the virus from so-called ‘community spread,’ meaning it’s unknown how they were infected.
A third reason is that some health departments did not leave the decision to test up to doctors as the CDC suggested.
For instance, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health initially required doctors to call a hotline to determine if their patients met CDC criteria for testing.
Then, before the test could be administered, it had to be authorized at the State Public Health Lab.
WILL IT BE EASIER TO GET TESTED NOW?
Since the CDC’s testing fiasco, several health departments have either received new kits from the federal agency or made their own.
Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration expanded its Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) policy so allow more labs can apply for approval to test for the virus.
The CDC that 75,000 test kits are currently available and more are being manufactured.
FDA Commissioner Dr Stephen Han told reporters on Monday that close to one million people would be tested by the end of the week.
But figures from the Association of Public Health Laboratories show that likely no more than 100,000 people would be tested by week’s end.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Leah Simpson