We Must Do More to Protect Essential Workers

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By Dorit Sasson

With the threat of a renewed coronavirus outbreak, essential workers are even more needed on the front lines. Every day, our essential employees risk their lives to protect ours. Our nation has a responsibility to protect the health and financial stability of these heroes and their families.

As the wife of an essential worker, I deeply understand the risks that these essential workers face every day. They are trapped in what I refer to as a “psychological malaise” stemming from fear of exposure. They are asking themselves, “Have I already been exposed to the disease? Will I need to take a COVID test? Is it possible that I could die from complications? What will this mean for my family? For my job?”


Because it’s difficult to adequately measure the risks, especially in grocery store environments, it’s even more necessary to require closer monitoring. Establishing a “good neighbor policy” triage system of checking in on each other is what’s needed right now to create a sense of community. This cost-effective, easy-to-implement strategy begins with management asking their employees daily, “Are you OK? Is there anything you need?”

Embracing the notion that we’re all in this together will, I hope, create a stronger sense of community, especially in retail and medical environments where workers may be trapped in their feelings of loneliness due to the stress and fear of potentially being exposed to the disease. But all too often, these vulnerable workers end up “playing it safe”for fear of losing their jobs.

Establishing an “I’ve got your back” community-wide system could be great news for mental health, as research d demonstrates an increase in mental health issues. Recent case studies have shown that “the feeling of increased social support and of being in this together may help limit increases in loneliness.” I look forward to seeing what will be revealed in future studies of companies that decide to implement such “good neighbor policies.”

Our government needs a better understanding of these essential workers — from retail to medical establishments and particularly those in customer-facing roles and the risks they face. Emerging research shows that these workers are five times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions, which raises the question of whether essential workers potentially exposed to COVID-19 can manage coronavirus-related health impacts in their own lives. Already, many of them are at an economic disadvantage — generally earning lower wages and carrying less health-related insurance. Because of their high risk of exposure, our country should regard COVID-19 essential workers similar to trained military professionals and offer a benefits package that represents their obligations and dangers.

There are some essential workers who feel that at the end of the day, all companies really only care about is increased efficiency and revenue. Even as we’re hoping for favorable outcomes with the vaccine rollout, our human supply chain is breaking and crumbling. We are not talking about keeping up with the supply chain of toilet paper or wipes. If anything, after a renewed outbreak globally with more than 1 million reported deaths worldwide, this pandemic will have taught us the fragility of the human supply chain.

Our essential workers are the heart of our global economy, and without them, our retail, grocery and hospital systems would not exist. Since our essential workers risk their lives every day to protect others, our nation and individual companies should speak up and show them how much they matter.

Dorit Sasson is a certified SEO content strategist and writing coach. Her new memoir is “Sand and Steel: The Spiritual Journey Home.”

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