No one pays you for self-quarantine. There is no reimbursement for products you may need, no government-paid nurse to stop by the home and help out. Self-quarantine is a hardship for both those who have families and those who live alone.
Not everyone can work remotely. A two-week absence from work can take an enormous financial toll on hourly wage workers who have to clock in and show up to get paid, or who are part of the gig economy with no single employer.
Many Americans, maybe most, live paycheck to paycheck.
“We have to have social interventions to incentivize and support isolation, or we are doomed,” said Arthur Caplan, professor of bioethics at New York University Langone Medical Center.
People with no health insurance, inadequate insurance or no regular doctor will be reluctant to seek care if they have symptoms, fearing steep medical bills, he noted. Undocumented individuals, fearful of being discovered and deported, may avoid diagnosis and care.
“I don’t see the state or federal government preparing for this in any way,” Dr. Caplan added.
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, have introduced legislation that would require all employers to let workers accrue seven days of sick leave, while providing another 14 days for immediate use during a public health emergency.
Washington State’s website says the health department can help with groceries for those unable to leave their homes and even intervene with employers on their behalf if necessary.
Providing for people who make sacrifices for the greater good is crucial, said Lawrence Gostin, a law professor at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.