Employers risk workers’ health during pandemic

By Maria Marroquin Monroy

We are facing a global health crisis and our hospitals are not equipped to deal with the amount of cases of COVID-19 that continue to increase significantly on a daily basis. 

In order to prevent our health system from collapsing and to prevent the spread of the virus, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti issued a “Safer at Home” order on Thursday.

While this order could be effective to decrease the cases in L.A. county it does not guarantee that we’ll be safe altogether. 

Ordering some citizens to stay home, but forcing others to continue working seems like a contradicting measure. I continuously remind my mother to not go out so she can be safe, but I am the one putting her in danger because my field of work is considered part of the “essential businesses” stipulated in the mayor’s order. 

Some of the essential businesses include hospitals, police stations, grocery stores and healthcare operations among others. While most fields included in the order are understandably essential, back-office staff isn’t necessarily essential to work on-site. 

As a medical claims examiner, I understand the importance of keeping certain places open, but as a daughter and concerned citizen I cannot understand my boss’s decision to continue to make us come into the office when we could easily work remotely.

The frustration that comes with knowing one can work from home to help reduce spreading or infecting loved ones when going back home is taking a toll on many people’s mental health. 

“I am still going to work. I feel that my bosses are allowing it because my clinic is inside a hospital and all hospital staff are exempt from staying home,” said East Los Angeles College student, Irene Velazquez. 

“It’s been upsetting since mostly everyone I know is working from home. I’m capable of doing my work from home. Employers just aren’t allowing it,” she said. 

Velazquez said she could use the two hours she spends commuting to work to focus on other things and spend more time with her partner who is now on a two-week paid leave from work due the mayor’s order. 

Daniel Mendoza, an IT specialist who works for a Managed Healthcare Organization said he feels scared and depressed because although he’s taking the proper measures to keep himself safe, other people on staff are not. 

“I’m trying to do my job while everyone else doesn’t seem to care. I’m fortunate enough to work with a good upper management who understands the urgency of getting everyone ready to work remotely and away from each other.”

Unfortunately, he said it is the outliers we need to keep our eye on. Mendoza, like many others, doesn’t have the option to stay home and it is thanks to people like him that the rest of us can perform our work duties. 

“At the end of the day we (ITs) are the reason employees are able to work from home. I do everything I can to maintain that infrastructure for them knowing well of the risks I’m taking,” Mendoza said. 

How long will California be able to keep the current measures and continue to try to prevent the virus from spreading? Not long if we look at Italy’s timeline. In three weeks, Italy’s healthcare system collapsed and now they’re choosing who lives and who dies based on age. 

Employers who can contribute to social distancing continue to make us work on-site to keep their business afloat and continue productivity are not only putting us in danger, but also hurting their own companies.

“Insurance is also part of the essential workforce, but the company (she works for) made the decision that it was best to have everyone work from home,” said former ELAC student Michel Contreras.

“I think that is the smartest thing to do. Quarantine all of us, but I am aware that my kind of job is not like everyone’s job. There are jobs out there that cannot be done with just a monitor,” she said. 

In my friend’s case, her boss understands the importance of keeping everyone safe. In my case, the words that came out of my boss’s mouth were “I am a firm believer of working on-site because it limits distractions and increases productivity.” 

As of now, productivity is below the mark and whoever meets productivity is only doing so because they’re working one to three hours of overtime. 

No one is 100% focused on work because we are all worried about COVID-19 knocking on our door. 

When we are not wondering when they’re going to let us work from home we are reading the news about the new number of cases and deaths around the world. 

As of right now, we can all work from home, but if one person on the floor has the virus and we all catch it, employers can say goodbye to their productivity. It is better to care for the employees’ health before worrying about productivity.

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