Coronavirus response a ‘vast experiment’ that’s changing U.S. workplaces

By Edward Lempien

March 17, 2020

While health leaders and policymakers race to limit the spread of COVID-19, the emerging crisis is having a dramatic impact on millions of healthy Americans — in restaurants, offices, taxicabs, classrooms and other places where they work.

Just yesterday, six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area issued a shelter-in-place order, effectively closing all non-essential enterprises. In the Bay Area and beyond, employees are being assigned to work remotely, using technology to stay connected to their work and co-workers.

But others — in restaurants and service industries, for example — have to be on the job in person. Those vulnerable workers may face slowdowns or shutdowns with little or no access to sick pay or unemployment insurance. Those who fall ill may be confronted with an impossible choice between their income and their health.

The workplace is a defining focus for many Americans, a place where they spend much of their lives earning an income, exercising creativity and connecting with colleagues and customers. This health emergency is sending shock waves across the working world, an impact with no precedent in modern times and no quick end in sight.

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