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As it headed toward final passage in the nation's capital, the historic $2 trillion economic stimulus package to alleviate the coronavirus pandemic was welcomed broadly by Louisiana businesses on Wednesday.

The massive deal had elements that would put money directly into people's hands to keep them spending, as well as measures to give soft loans and direct aid to American business sectors that have been hit hardest by the near complete shut-down of the economy. (NIAID-RML via AP)

The current outbreak of the coronavirus highlights the importance of Louisiana implementing a paid sick days policy to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials urge those who have the flu to stay home. However, this is difficult for workers who lack paid sick days and do not earn money if they miss work. Needing the earnings, workers often go to work sick in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, nursing homes, and childcare facilities — undermining their own recoveries and spreading illness to co-workers, customers, children, and the elderly.

Unfortunately, Louisiana has a high percentage of workers who lack paid sick days. Recent research found that 45% of Louisiana private sector workers lack paid sick days (with areas across the state ranging from 40% to 52% lacking paid sick days). Particularly concerning for contagion are the 82% of Louisiana private sector workers in the “Food Preparation and Serving Related” category and 74% of those in “Personal Care and Service” who lack paid sick days.

Since many employers do not provide paid sick leave, and the spread of disease impairs individuals, families, workplaces, and communities — and increases health care costs — eleven states and the District of Columbia have enacted policies that enable workers to accrue paid sick days. In Louisiana, a paid sick leave bill was introduced in the Senate (Senate Bill 81, 2015). This or the laws in other states could be the basis for passing a paid sick days policy — needed to help prevent the spread of illness in Louisiana now and in the future.

PHYLLIS H. RAABE

KATHERINE P. THEALL

Tulane School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine

New Orleans

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