While thousands of Bostonians have transitioned to working from home as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers have remained on the frontline to provide critical services to the public. Since the start of the public health crisis in Massachusetts, workers across several crucial industries started to test positive for the coronavirus; namely, those in healthcare settings.
A shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) has continued to persist, leaving many essential workers inadequately protected against exposure to the virus. However, the Massachusetts Nurses Association has reported that many hospitals contend that employees who contract COVID-19 acquired it outside of the workplace. This leaves workers ineligible for worker’s compensation.
“This situation cannot stand. We are hugely indebted to our frontline workers in the midst of this public health emergency and, the very least we can do, is to honor their sacrifices by ensuring that those who fall sick with COVID-19 in the course of their work have access to worker’s compensation,” stated Councilor Liz Breadon (District 9).
Councilor Ed Flynn (District 2) urged the importance of looking at these cases under the context of PPE shortages, limited testing of healthcare workers, and the failure to properly triage patients. These workplace conditions greatly increase the risk that employees will contract the disease.
“The thing about worker’s comp is that it applies to everyone, regardless of their status,” said Councilor Lydia Edwards (District 1). She urged that OSHA had a responsibility to join the conversation on the issue to protect essential workers.