We’ve all seen the headlines about labor shortages, worker burnout, or, as many of the mainstream media refer to it, “the Great Resignation.”
It’s true: since 2020, a record number of people have quit their jobs. The trend continues, and some argue quitting smoking is contagious. But, there is another contagion that is probably causing people to leave the workforce en masse.
Since 2020, there have been more than 95 million cases of covid-19 in the US, 1 million deaths, and ongoing reports of chronic covid-induced illnesses and disabilities, known as long-term covid. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that long Covid affects one in five people infected with Sars-CoV-2. a recent Brookings Institution The analysis found that between 2 and 4 million people may be out of work as a result. With more than 11 million jobs in the US vacancies, it is plausible that up to a third of the current labor shortage is due to long covid.
In other words, the Great Resignation may be a symptom of a mass disable event.
So why don’t we talk more about quitting smoking and prolonging covid? Rather than investigate the impact of the pandemic’s ongoing damage to the workforce, many have been quick to frame the Great Renunciation through stories of white collar workers searching better work-life balance. for a society supposedly eager to move on of the pandemic, the long Covid is an inconvenient truth. Its potential impact on the workforce is even more inconvenient, as governments frequently cite economic problems as justification for abandoning Covid-19 mitigation efforts.
Despite a widespread media focus on white-collar workers who have quit, worker attrition from the pandemic is most apparent in “essential” industries that require in-person work. Many states face drastic shortage of teachers Y health workers keep quitting. The restaurant and food service industry still experiences severe pandemic-related labor shortage This day. These workers faced higher infection rates than those working remotely, and are likely to experience higher rates of prolonged Covid, both because infection prevention is he the only way to prevent long Covid and because reinfection can increase the risk.
It stands to reason that prolonged Covid could be causing shortages in these industries. A 2021 study by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco indicated that line cooks faced the increased mortality risk of covid-19. One in five educators are long distance carriers and healthcare workers with long Covid say pressures in the workplace make it difficult to stay in employment.
like two people personally affected by postviral diseases, we understand the difficult decisions faced by long-haul carriers who cannot survive financially without working. We both rely on remote work and flexible hours to manage our health, privileges long lacking for many with Covid. Our symptoms are also milder than many, allowing us to work at all. Long-distance carriers most seriously ill face great barriers access social security disability benefits. Those who qualify will receive a mere $1,358 on average each month.
When Tracey Thompson became too sick to stand up, it was clear she couldn’t go back to her previous job as a chef. More than two years later, Thompson is unemployed and disabled, with cognitive dysfunction and “overwhelming fatigue.” She recently regained enough strength to lift a single frying pan, but she remains confined to her home and for the most part bedridden. “A lot of the normal avenues of work, like physical or mental work, are cut off for me,” she explained. “You can’t cook remotely.”
Since getting sick, Thompson has connected with other long-haul carriers who are also out of work. “There are a lot of people who are barely holding on … by a thread,” she said. “And there are people who are definitely not going to work well.” Unfortunately, getting over prolonged Covid symptoms to continue working can result in worsening health. But, as Thompson explains, “people can’t afford to take time off.”
Leigh, a physical therapist from Ohio who prefers to be identified by her first name only, is one of those long-timers. She sometimes forgets about interactions with patients and rarely has time to take care of herself. If she could keep her health care benefits while she works less, she would. “I’m so tired of being tired all the time,” she said. “I don’t want to let anyone down, but I’m…fighting. And I’m not sure I want people to know how much.”
As long-haul carriers struggle to keep jobs, a tik tok video about “resigning quietly” triggered a flurry of news coverage that described workers who are say no to hustle culture. As with the Great Resignation, most discussions of “resigning quietly” do not address the damage impact of the pandemic, instead focusing on perceived generational divides. A borrow a phrase often attributed to Mark Twain, it’s as if a TikTok meme had gone around the world before the truth had time to put on its shoes.
“Silent resignation” and resignations may also be prompted by the recent removal of remote work options, mask commands Y quarantine requirements. Some long-haul carriers who may work part-time or full-time are now sidelined due to increased risk of reinfection. These people are joined by millions of other high-risk people who have been increasingly marginalized of society, and now you must fend for themselves.
The connection between workplace safety, chronic illness and work is not new. For decades, health justice activists have urged politicians to respond to the increase in rates of disabled poverty, demanding better accommodations in the workplace and disability benefits. However, policymakers continually fail to adequately address these issues. Erasing disease is easier in a world where people with chronic illnesses often seem disappear from society altogether.
Since we began covering the long run of Covid in the spring of 2020, patients we have spoken with have consistently detailed drastic financial issues. Yet little has been done to help. Instead, long-distance vehicles burn keeping accounts, lose their houses and trudge back and forth to jobs they can no longer perform safely. Some might call this a Great Resignation, or “quietly giving up.” To us, it is an example of government neglect in the face of a public health crisis and the impossible choices facing high-risk and chronically ill workers today.
Fixing the labor shortage means treating, accommodating and mitigating the long Covid. It also requires building a society in which people with disabilities can participate.