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Beware of Covid-19 - An Opinion Piece by the offices of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas & Texas Rio

The downturn in the economy has forced many people to continue working, even in unsafe conditions. Meatpacking employees and farmworkers, for example, have been working throughout the pandemic. Are you working while sick with Covid-19? It’s important to know what Covid-19 is and how to protect yourself and those around you.

Covid-19 is a contagious illness that easily spreads person to person. Covid symptoms can range from mild to severe; some people have the virus with no symptoms at all. Older adults and anyone with serious medical conditions may be at higher risk for more severe illness.

What to Watch For Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after contact with someone who has the virus. Symptoms include fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; headache; a new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; and/or diarrhea. Seek emergency medical care immediately if someone is showing any of the following: trouble breathing; persistent pain or pressure in the chest; new confusion; inability to wake or stay awake; and for those with a lighter complexion, bluish lips or face.

How Does Covid Spread?Most meatpacking employees and farmworkers work in tight, enclosed spaces for long hours with few (if any) breaks. There are many meatpacking employees and farmworkers in Texas. Those on an H-2A visa often live in crowded, unsafe housing conditions. Covid-19 is spread by close, personal contact with a person, generally 6 feet or less. Covid-19 can be spread by touching or shaking hands, through the air by a cough or sneeze, or by touching an infected surface and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.

How Can I Protect Myself and My Family?

Stay at home as much as possible. Avoid contact with other people. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Cover your mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze.

Use a household cleaning spray or disinfecting wipes to clean “high-touch surfaces,” such as counters, tabletops, doorknobs, bathroom fixtures, toilets, phones, computers, and tables. When cleaning, use gloves and make sure there is good ventilation. Try to avoid public transportation, sharing rides, carpooling, or taxis.

All employers have to provide a safe work environment for their employees. If your employer doesn’t sanitize your job area, has not set up barriers between workers, or makes workers sit next to each other on employer-provided transportation, then you can make a confidential and anonymous complaint to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA is the federal agency that enforces workplace health and safety laws, and there number is 800-321-6742.

Finally, stay home if you are sick, unless you need to get medical care. Call your doctor ahead of time to minimize the risk of affecting others. If you feel ill, separate yourself from other people and pets in your home.

Depending on the size of the company you work for, you may have the right to paid sick leave. If you and your employer qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act, your employer must let you take family medical leave if you or a family member have Covid-19, regardless of your immigration status.

If you have questions or want to apply for free and confidential help contact:Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas at 888-529-5277 or 806-373-6808orTexas RioGrande Legal Aid at 956-447-4800 or 800-369-0574.Together, we can protect our families and friends and beat Covid-19!


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