Sick? Stay Home

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MTT News's picture
Michelle Phillips

Every time someone near me coughs, I give them the side eye and slowly back away because of the possibility that they have Coronavirus.

I should put a disclaimer on that statement–I back away from anyone who is coughing and hacking because I don’t know where you have been, who you have seen or what you might be carrying with you. It’s not just Coronavirus that I am trying to avoid, but all sicknesses.

I sell vintage jewelry on eBay as a hobby, mostly to fund my own jewelry addiction, so I frequent a lot of antique stores, thrift stores and secondhand shops. Last week the woman behind the counter at one of the shops  was about to cough a lung up as I reluctantly handed her my debt card to ring up my purchases. I watched as she coughed for what seemed like 10 minutes into her hand while my card was in the machine. She pulled it out, smiled at me and asked, “Do you need a receipt?”

“No,” I thought, “But I need some soap and water.”

Instead I shook my head and replied, “Do you have a restroom I could use?”

She directed me to the restroom where I vigorously washed my hands and wiped down my card, which I had tossed into my bag, so as not to contaminate my wallet.

As I left, I saw the woman going through the same steps while ringing up another customer. I cringed at the thought of how many people she had exposed throughout her shift as I stepped through the door to leave.

Normally at this point, I would write about how you should wash your hands often, cough into your elbow, etc., but instead I am going to talk about staying home when you are sick.

When I worked in restaurants many of my bosses would insist that servers, cooks, bartenders and other employees come to work sick unless they had a doctor’s excuse.

Any of you who have worked in a restaurant know that employees typically don’t have health insurance, and can’t afford a couple hundred bucks to see a doctor. This meant there were often people in the kitchen coughing and sneezing while preparing and serving food and drinks, spreading their illness to the masses, including their coworkers.

When I owned a coffee shop I did not expect nor ask my employees to come in while they were sick. I sucked it up and worked a double shift if necessary, but I did not want to be exposed to whatever they were contagious with or have them expose our customers. There was only one exception, and it was an employee who chronically called in sick. Once I began asking for a doctors excuse, she was suddenly well.

Now I am going to say something that many of you will disagree with: If you are sick, do not go out to a restaurant and expose the staff, or anyone else. When I worked at Red Lobster way back in late ‘80s and early ‘90s, someone brought in a child that was contagious with chicken pox. I had never had chicken pox, nor had two of my coworkers and all three of us got sick because of the one child whose parents thought it was a good idea to bring him out to eat some popcorn shrimp.

I was the one who waited on him, but chicken pox is highly contagious and as I said, it spread to two others. Back then, there was no chicken pox vaccine, and there were no “exposure parties” in which people bring their kids to intentionally infect them. Yes, this is a thing. It was like spinning a roulette wheel when exposed, will I win or lose at this game of chance?

By some strange alignment of planets, coincidence or fate, my brother had chicken pox at the same time, though I hadn’t seen him in a month. I was 22 and he was two at the time. I had gone to my parents’ house to convalesce because I was in no fear of exposing anyone at their house. I was incredibly sick with pox everywhere, my ears, my nose–everywhere. My brother had about four pox on his entire body. Chicken pox are much more severe as an adult than they are as a small child, as my doctor confirmed.

So, if you are sick or your child is sick stay home. If you are an employer, don’t demand that your employees come in while they are sick. If their child cannot go to school because of an illness, do not force the matter. This is truly how disease gets spread.

Go ahead, wash your hands, cough into your arm, do all the things that are recommended when you are sick, but try not to go out and expose others. We will all be better–and healthier–for it in the end.

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