A national organization of more than 1 million mothers and their families is pushing for the federal government to allot national paid sick days as the new coronavirus continues to spread.
MomsRising Senior Vice President Ruth Martin said the organization is also asking for signatures to petition against a single company from monopolizing a possible coronavirus vaccine. There is not a vaccine to treat the virus as of Tuesday.
“We need to use this moment in time as an opportunity to talk about where the gaps are in our systems, as a country and our infrastructure, in order to properly respond to a situation like the coronavirus,” Martin said in a phone call with Florida Politics.
U.S. federal law does not guarantee paid sick leave. However, eligible employees who work for companies covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious health conditions.
Martin said she would like to see “momentum” for Congress to pass federal legislation that would mandate paid sick leave.
“Of course, we’re hopeful that this will be contained, but it’s likely that something else will come up,” Martin said. “We’ve seen this happen before with SARS and MERS and Ebola and Zika, and it points to the lack infrastructure that we have around things like access to paid sick days, and this is something we could really get taken care of quite quickly.”
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found 63% of people working in service occupations have paid sick leave compared to more than 90% of people in management positions.
“While it [legislation] probably couldn’t be implemented nationwide in time to help with this particular outbreak, we’re sure another one will come, and in that time we’ll be better prepared,” Martin said.
MomsRising also wrote to President Donald Trump, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and to members of Congress about ensuring there is not a monopoly on a potential coronavirus vaccine in the future.
“When the world is increasingly at risk for pandemics that threaten public health, and treatments must be developed quickly and made affordable and accessible to the public, no single company should have control over the development and pricing of a coronavirus vaccine,” the letter reads. “The health of America’s families must take precedence over the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.”
There are more than 92,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3,159 people have died. So far, the U.S. has 118 confirmed cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote “the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low” for the general American public.