SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The California Department of Public Health’s decision to allow employers to force COVID-positive healthcare workers and caregivers to work, exposing sick patients, vulnerable elderly people, and the general public to COVID, outraged SEIU California leaders, who represent over half a million healthcare workers and other caregivers in the state.

Shortly after this news broke, the administration announced its determination to guarantee that workers have the additional paid sick leave they require to protect themselves, their patients, and their families. On September 30, paid supplemental sick leave came to an end. For months, workers have been arguing vehemently for renewal. A bill must yet be passed by the legislature in order for this endeavor to succeed.

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“Healthcare workers and patients need the protection of clear rules guided by strong science. Allowing employers to bring back workers who may still be infectious is one of the worst ideas I have heard during this pandemic, and that’s really saying something,” said Bob Schoonover, President of SEIU California and Executive Director of SEIU California.

“We appreciate that supplemental paid sick leave, which should never have been allowed to expire, might soon be renewed,” said Schoonover. “This is a critical piece of the protection that workers and the public need.”

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Nursing homes and hospitals are both affected by the CDPH order. During the pandemic, nursing homes have been the site of approximately 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, making them one of the most dangerous places to work and live.

“Nowhere did we see more tragic COVID death in this pandemic than in our nursing homes,” said April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015 and Executive Board Member of SEIU California. “Yet, our governing public healthcare agencies—from the CDC to our local health departments and health safety enforcement bodies—continue to fail us, putting expediency above sound public health guidance. This guidance does the same.”

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SEIU leaders and members vowed to continue fighting for patient and worker safety despite the state’s abdication of its role.