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The United States and the world are facing the very real threat of the widespread transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19). Federal health officials have said the spread of the virus is likely and may cause severe disruptions to everyday life.
Health care workers, firefighters, police, airline workers, emergency service workers and other first responders will be on the front lines of responding to an outbreak. But as we have seen with the initial response to the virus on our nation’s shores, our health care workers and first responders do not have the necessary resources and equipment or adequate training and communication available to protect them from contracting, and spreading, this virus.
The COVID-19 coronavirus isn’t the first time our nation has faced the threat of a pandemic outbreak. In the past two decades alone, we have seen deadly viruses such as SARS, Ebola, swine flu (H1N1) and avian flu (H5N1) pose the real threat of causing a national health emergency. And each emerging public health threat revealed a woefully unprepared health care system unable to adequately address these threats by reducing the risk of exposure to the general public and giving proper protection, resources and training to workers on the front lines.
The labor movement has long advocated for increased federal, state and local funding needed to restore the public health infrastructure and to respond to public health emergencies, and the comprehensive, enforceable standards necessary to ensure all workers on the front line of an outbreak are protected from infectious disease agents so they can provide the vital services, treatment and care the public depends on.
The AFL-CIO is working with our affiliates to immediately develop and disseminate educational, training and logistical resources and recommendations and the most up-to-date materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the World Health Organization, research experts and others about the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, many of which are listed below.