Elevating the Essential and Health Workforce

En Español

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For science.
About three-quarters of all U.S. workers have jobs that are difficult or impossible to do from home – meaning the majority of us are at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Low-income workers have higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.2 Millions of health care workers are not getting the supplies or pay they need during the pandemic.3 Where public health services are not being accessed, or where they’ve been cut, COVID-19 cases and deaths have increased.4 And family leave protections do not cover all workers, keeping many people, who work at large employers like grocery store chains, in health and financial peril.5

For action.
Tell Congress you support a loan repayment program for public health workers and other provisions to ensure public health readiness. Advocate in your workplace and your community for paid sick leave for workers. Call on lawmakers to support programs that strengthen the public health workforce, such as those at the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration. Uphold standards that protect workers during a pandemic, including legal protections for public health officials.6 Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to protect essential workers by limiting trips to the store, washing your hands or using hand sanitizer, wearing a mask, maintaining physical distance and staying home when you’re sick.7

For health.
Worker protections equal better health outcomes.8 In places where public health authority is strong, communities are seeing lower rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths.9 When people trust public health leaders and their health providers, they achieve better health outcomes.10 Funding a robust public health workforce supports strong programs to protect communities and help people get and stay healthy physically and mentally.11,12 While voluntary approaches to worker safety has not proven to be effective, 14 states so far have enacted their own mandates to protect workers’ health.13

For justice.
People of color are more likely to work in essential jobs or be gig workers, which increases their risk of exposure. Health care workers of color are a smaller proportion on the workforce, but they are more likely to work in lower-wage positions.3 They also have greater likelihood of COVID-19 infection or death: Filipino nurses are only 3% of the nursing workforce, but they make up 20% of nursing deaths from the virus.14 Protective equipment and testing are not distributed equitably to janitors and other hospital workers compared with doctors and nurses.15