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Millions can’t work from home. Are they safe?

Matt Dustin had a wrenching decision to make: Take an unpaid leave from his job or keep working at the shipbuilding company where he feared catching the coronavirus and bringing it home to his vulnerable wife.

Dustin decided to forgo his pay.

“There is no social distancing there at all,’’ says Dustin, who is taking a leave of absence from his job in Bath, Maine, because his wife has a heart condition and asthma, putting her at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. “If they put you to work, you’re working right on top of each other.”

His union has asked that non-essential employees be allowed to stay home and get paid. But so far the company hasn’t budged. So Dustin says he will be at home, dipping into his savings if he must to make ends meet. 

Breaking news - coronavirus lockdown with map of world showing coronavirus hotspots

At a time when tens of millions of Americans have been told to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, millions of others have no choice but to show up to work. Some say they are being forced to, though their office and clerical duties could be done remotely. Others, who deliver packages, clean buildings, and work on assembly lines, can’t fulfill their roles offsite.

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