On Monday, federal authorities urged Americans to take a number of steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, including in restaurants.
“Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts,” the guidelines say. “Use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.”
Amid the current COVID-19 outbreak, public health officials are also urging sick workers to stay home to avoid spreading the infection to others. Yet many U.S. food service workers lack paid sick leave and may come to work sick as a result.
That’s not just bad for workers. It also puts consumers at risk.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 does not survive for long on food, but it spreads easily among people. Restaurant workers may not always know if they’ve been infected, and a lack of paid sick leave could affect whether they are able to stay home if they develop symptoms.
That’s why the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher, surveyed the 20 largest restaurant chains to see how they are handling paid sick leave during the pandemic.
The results, as of Monday? Dismal.
Twelve of the 20 largest chains (60 percent) did not disclose any policy on paid leave, and only three (Chipotle, Olive Garden, and Starbucks) offer sick leave at all locations nationwide.
Six chains (KFC, McDonald’s, Panera, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, and Taco Bell) have announced emergency leave policies for workers affected by COVID-19. But most of those policies cover only company-owned stores (not franchises), and some may not cover all workers with symptoms.
What can you do right now?
Avoid restaurants that don’t guarantee sick leave. That encourages businesses to protect workers and you. It doesn’t only help prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It also helps prevent the spread of other pathogens. A big one: the stomach bug norovirus, which can spread easily from infected workers to food.
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