Anand Giridharadas tweet on the coronavirus

Food Service Workers Point Out That Lack Of Sick Days Could Worsen Coronavirus Spread

You know that coronavirus thing everyone is talking about? Apparently, it’s pretty contagious, and can be passed along via contact with food that was handled by a sick person.

And remember that other thing where food service employees are rarely offered paid sick leave by their employees and are also paid so little that missing any workdays could mean they won’t be able to pay rent?

People on Twitter are starting to make a connection between the coronavirus outbreak, insecure service industry jobs, and a lack of affordable healthcare options and wondering if perhaps it might cause a problem.

Writer Lauren Hough pointed out that when she was working in the service industry, as many of us have at some point in our lives, she was given little if any sick leave and working while sick was a common situation.

And while in some states employers are required to offer sick leave, they Hough further points out that it often doesn’t kick in until 30-90 days after hiring. In other areas, sick leave accumulates based on the number of hours you work. Coupled with the high turnover rates common in service industries and you have a recipe for disaster.

Plus, if you do call out sick, nobody lets you forget it.

Basically, if you don’t want to get sick, you’d better not need any services until they develop and deploy a vaccine. Shouldn’t be more than a couple of years.

Hough isn’t the only one raising the alarm on this very American problem. Almost everyone who has ever been employed in the service industry has a story of a time when they had to work while sick or injured or had coworkers who did the same.

There are now dozens of cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., and the first case of “unknown origin,” meaning that the infected person had not been to one of the highly affected areas such as Wuhan, China recently, just appeared in California. As the virus spreads, service employees who can’t afford to go to the doctor could easily catch it without knowing that it is the coronavirus. Even if they did suspect COVID-19, they might avoid diagnosis because they can’t afford to be quarantined.

As TIME editor at large Anand Giridharadas, this why living in a society means we actually have to be willing to take care of each other.

It may be too late to stop the spread of the coronavirus with Medicare for All and paid sick leave for the most undervalued employees in the country, but there will always be another virus.