Coronavirus has laid bare the extent to which the failure of our nation to require paid sick leave has now endangered all of us. Congress needs to urgently pass paid sick leave laws, but states and cities must not wait for that and take action now. In some jurisdictions, this may require making compromises, such as a sunset provision or some aid to small employers.

Americans have long been laboring while sick, potentially passing illness to colleagues and the public, because they fear getting fired for missing work and cannot afford unpaid leave. According to the Federal Reserve, almost 40 percent of people cannot cover a $400 unexpected expense. Being present is not the result of our work ethic on overdrive. It is usually caused by a power disparity leaving workers at the mercy of employers.