By Whitney E. Akers

Inability to take paid sick days is tied to past outbreaks

Past outbreaks can give us a clue into how sick day policies can fuel the rapid spread of viruses.

During the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in 2009, an estimated 8 million workers contagious with H1N1 did not take time off of work. This led to as many as 7 million additional cases of the virus.

The food industry, where 79 percent of workers don’t get sick leave — is another example of how illness could be prevented with policy change.

“The last thing you want is someone who’s been exposed to coronavirus or another illness coming into work and preparing your food and spreading that illness,” said Alex Baptiste, policy counsel for workplace programs at the National Partnership for Women & Families.

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