Virginia physicians commended the General Assembly and Governor Ralph Northam for enacting paid sick leave for home health care workers. HB2137, which Governor Ralph Northam signed, will guarantee up to five days of paid sick leave for 30,000 caregivers across the state. The signing comes as new COVID-19 variants are popping up in Virginia and the nation’s health experts warn of a fourth surge in cases.
“As physicians, we always recommend that our patients who are sick, particularly with COVID-19, stay home from work to recover and avoid spreading sickness, and this bill will help 30,000 Virginians be able to do that now,” said Dr. Shadi Ayyas, a family physician in Winchester. “Nobody should have to choose between taking care of themselves and others or getting a paycheck, particularly home health workers who are on the frontlines and working with vulnerable patients. I hope that the General Assembly will expand paid sick leave even further in the future to protect all working Virginians and keep our state healthier.”
HB2137 originally would have applied to all essential workers, but was amended in the Senate and narrowed to just home health care workers. About 1.2 million Virginians are essential workers who could benefit from paid sick leave. A large proportion of them are Black or Latino, and more at risk from serious COVID-19.
“This bill is a huge first step for the state of Virginia as we finally make progress on paid sick leave for our patients and our working neighbors,” said Dr. Michael Williams, an emergency physician and trauma surgeon in Charlottesville. “But this ongoing pandemic illustrates the critical need to expand paid sick leave to all essential workers, many of whom have been disproportionately harmed by COVID-19. As a doctor, I know that individuals are only as healthy as our communities, and we’ll all be healthier when those workers we rely on to keep us fed and keep our trains running are able to take care of themselves.”