Essential WorkersF. Amos Bailey, MD Jun 30, 2020
What is an essential worker? Yesterday, I went to my first post-COVID dental appointment. The dental hygienist was wearing the equivalent of a HazMat suit. She struggled to do her job, which required finesse through all these different layers.
Is she an essential worker?
As I left, two other workers swarmed into the room I had just left to disinfect all the surfaces so that they could see the next person.
Were they essential workers?
Two men came to pick up my garbage today at my house as I write this.
Are they essential workers?
Next week when I am on the inpatient Palliative Medicine Consult Service, we will take an iPad to the room of a patient that we are going to see, and a nurse will take it in. The consult will be virtual; us in an office, the patient in his/her room, and the family at home. I know that the nurse is essential, but I don’t feel so essential anymore.
In JAMA this week, McCormack et al. (2020) reported that households with essential workers are at high risk for a terrible COVID-19 outcome. This study also demonstrated three other interesting findings. They found 1) that the household income, combing everyone’s salary in the home, of the essential worker is often only $40,000 annually 2) one or more members of the household are likely to be uninsured and 3) multigenerational households are common with people over 65 in the home who are at risk to be exposed to COVID when the essential worker returns home.
Where is our sense of fairness? Over 3000 years ago prophets pronounced judgement on income and social inequality in ancient Israel and called for:
“Justice to roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24
Our essential workers are thirstier than ever.