The Return of Typhoid Mary? Immigrant Workers in Nursing Homes
Journal of Elder Policy (Spring 2021 Forthcoming)
32 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2020 Last revised: 9 Dec 2020
Date Written: November 19, 2020
Nursing homes are dependent on immigrant, female labor as nursing aides, yet these workers are provided with minimal employment benefits, which has led to devastating consequences for vulnerable, older residents during COVID-19. Emerging research suggests that aides are contributors to the increase in coronavirus outbreaks due to working in multiple long-term care facilities and refer to these individuals as “superspreaders.” Specifically, aides have been tied to unwittingly passing on the virus as they may be asymptomatic or pressured to work by employers while symptomatic with limited access to paid sick leave. The plight of these women harkens back to “Typhoid Mary”—also a poor, immigrant woman who was accused of spreading typhoid fever a century ago. This Article applies lessons learned from Mary’s shocking and tragic trajectory, then employs critical race and feminist jurisprudence to highlight examples of structural and institutional disparities that exist in current paid sick leave laws. Recommendations call for improved oversight in delivery of quality and safety in long-term care by addressing racial, gender, and economic inequalities through paid sick leave laws coupled with strong enforcement.
Keywords: COVID-19, long-term care, paid sick leave, immigrant workers
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