Dr. Rex Archer, Director of the Health Dept. for the City of Kansas City, Missouri

What about firefighters, EMS, nurses, janitorial staff and other public servants who touch people daily?

The AFL-CIO estimates there are over 19 million workers in the U.S. who have an elevated risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus (coronavirus) in the event of a widespread outbreak.

The AFL-CIO recently sent a notification to all members and affiliates, asking them to contact their representatives in Washington D.C. and demand that OSHA create an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the current COVID-19 outbreak and future infectious agents. Because there is no current regulation demanding that employers protect their employees from infectious disease.

“As the largest union of healthcare workers, SEIU is concerned that President Trump is jeopardizing the health and lives of millions of people by downplaying the severity of this coronavirus, COVID-19. Instead of prioritizing the release of safety guidelines and development of treatment plans, the administration is prioritizing stock prices, spreading false science, and unfairly targeting immigrants and travelers from Asia as a means to distract Americans from the fact that this administration is failing to address this health emergency,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in a statement.

“Working people across the country, including people on the front lines of our healthcare system and airport workers, face an increased risk of exposure to illness — people like Delores Prescott, an acute care nurse from Seattle, and Pedro de Moya, a cabin cleaner who sanitizes restrooms, removes trash and wipes surfaces on airplanes in Miami airport. COVID-19 is preventable and treatable, but only if we ensure working people like Delores and Pedro are informed and protected. And employers must have contingency plans for their workplaces should working people see their workplaces closed or scaled back if this emergency grows.”

The SEIU represents some of the lowest paid workers in the industry. The SEIU supported the Fight for $15 for minimum wage workers. If schools and offices close, as they have in Washington State, janitorial staff will be told to go. Many workers making minimum wage do not have emergency savings. They will need to find work elsewhere and could continue to work when sick to keep food on the family table.
In response to the economic impact on working people, President Trump announced in a press conference on March 9th a plan for “paycheck relief for hourly workers.” He said he was working with Congress to develop economic policies both for hourly workers and small businesses impacted by closures. Congress is in the midst of creating measures to help battle the financial impact from the virus.

As of this writing the World Health Organization said the new coronavirus is close to becoming a pandemic due to the number of countries involved in the outbreak. There are over 116,000 cases in more than 100 countries. Some 4,300 people have died. The U.S. now has well over 1,100 cases so far, with at least 31 deaths but testing in the U.S. is still ramping up, meaning that number will continue to climb.

As the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, in Kansas City, Mayor Quinton Lucas and Health Director, Dr. Rex Archer, held a press conference on March 11th to provide recommendations on steps that members of the community should take to prevent the spread of the virus. At the time this article was written Kansas City had chosen not to cancel scheduled events.

Kansas City issued this joint statement from the Mayor, Health Department, “We are aware of and monitoring developments in St. Louis and in Johnson County, Kansas. While we do not yet have confirmed cases in Kansas City, we know we may have them in the future. Our Health Department is leading our preparation and is working closely with several other city health departments across the nation. Additionally, cities and counties across our state are working together to share information and we will keep working with our regional partners to keep the pubic safe.”

“The latest news reminds us all to continue with prevention techniques. Remember to wash your hands, cover coughs, stay home if you are sick, and greet friends without shaking hands.”

If you are interested in signing up for text updates from the city of Kansas City regarding COVID-19 please text COVID to 888-777. for more information, visit the CDC’s website at cdc.gov/coronavirus or kcmo.gov /coronavirus.