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SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico physicians today called on the state Legislature and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to pass a paid sick leave proposal that can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and significantly rein in the pandemic, which is threatening to flare up with the emergence of more contagious strains and at least one mutation of the virus. House Bill 20, also known as the Healthy Workplaces Act, could significantly help New Mexican workers, half of whom have no paid sick leave. New Mexico has the highest rate of workers without paid sick leave in the nation.
“As physicians, our advice to every patient who is sick with a contagious and potentially lethal disease is to get rest, take their medications as prescribed and stay home to avoid getting more people sick,” said Dr. Robert Ferraro, an endocrinologist in Artesia. “In a pandemic that has killed more than a half-million Americans in just 12 months, nobody wants sick people to show up for work, serving our food or looking after our kids at daycare centers. Every New Mexican should have paid sick leave and no New Mexicans should be punished with lost pay and wages for following their doctor’s recommendation and doing their part to protect their neighbors, colleagues and communities from getting COVID-19. We have a great vaccine that can help us get back to normal, and in the meantime, as we vaccinate our fellow New Mexicans, we must do everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading to more people.”
A contagious variant that originated in Britain has begun appearing in New Mexico. New Mexico researchers have also discovered a new COVID-19 mutation that prompted them to reiterate the importance of minimizing person-to-person contact to minimize disease spread and contain the pandemic.
Private employers in New Mexico would be required to provide workers at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they work, or 64 hours per year, under House Bill 20. The bill, if made into law, will apply to every employee who has less than 56 hours a year for time off in the event of illness, regardless of whether that employee is management or part-time. The New Mexico House approved the bill on Feb. 28. The bill now goes to the state Senate.
“New Mexicans, especially low-wage workers, should not have to choose between going to work with COVID-19 or lose their paycheck or even their jobs,” said Dr. Kathleen Gresh, a retired pediatrician in Santa Fe. “COVID-19 is a serious disease and we must take it seriously. A lot of people get chronic ‘long-hauler’ syndrome, something I’ve seen in patients and the complications they experience tells us we need paid sick leave so people who get COVID-19 can recover properly and don’t give COVID-19 to other people. We don’t want people with COVID-19 who may not be symptomatic coming to work. We don’t want them to transmit it to their coworkers and the community beyond. The data is clear: When we minimize physical contact and exposure, we can reduce disease spread and outbreaks. Paid sick leave will benefit and protect all New Mexicans, and as physicians, we urge our elected officials to pass it right away.”
A federal emergency law signed in March 2020 allowed employees to take two weeks of COVID-19-related emergency sick leave coverage at full pay. The law also allowed up to 12 weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds of daily pay for parents to take care of their children as a result of closures of schools and child care facilities. Researchers found that because of this emergency paid sick leave protection, each state likely saw 400 fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day. That law, the Families First Act, expired at the end of 2020.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Mar. 5, 2021
NOTE: The physicians above are speaking in their capacity as members of the Committee to Protect Medicare. They should be identified only as indicated in this news release.