Resources for Domestic Workers on the Coronavirus Pandemic

Domestic workers keep homes clean and safe, care for children and provide support for elders and people with disabilities. Our work as nannies, home care workers and housecleaners is critically important--and it puts us on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The resource hub includes information in the following sections:

We have an upcoming webinar to talk about the Coronavirus, how to respond to it, talk to your employers and take action together. RSVP here.


Many of us spend our days closest to people most vulnerable to illness, like elders and people with compromised immune systems. Many of us are also vulnerable ourselves because of long hours, low wages, and the lack of access to healthcare and paid sick days that could enable us to care for ourselves and our families. And many of us are vulnerable because of our own health challenges or because of the precarious health status of our loved ones.

At the same time, we are also on the frontlines of keeping our families and communities healthy and strong! We can share information, adopt practices to protect ourselves and the people in our care, and take powerful action together to demand paid sick time and other workplace protections that we—and all workers—deserve.

NDWA has created this hub to support domestic workers with trusted information and resources to take care of yourselves and the people that depend on you. In addition to keeping each other safe, it’s important that we prevent panic and scapegoating by sharing accurate information with our communities and standing up for one another. There are suggestions for some ways to do this below.

**NOTE and disclaimer: NDWA is not a healthcare or legal services provider. These resources should not be considered legal or health advice. If you or someone in your family begins to experience symptoms of coronavirus, call your healthcare provider directly.

NDWA’s communications team is collecting stories of how domestic workers are particularly impacted by coronavirus. If you would like to share your personal story of how this health crisis has impacted your work and your life, please contact Nidya Sarria, NDWA’s Media Relations Director, at 18554262450 or [email protected].


Coronavirus Care Fund

The Coronavirus Care Fund was established by the National Domestic Workers Alliance to provide emergency assistance for home care workers, nannies and house cleaners to support them in staying safe and staying home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and to care for themselves and their families. Qualifying applicants who are experiencing financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic can receive $400 in emergency assistance from the Fund.

Learn more


What is coronavirus?

It is essential that we only share information about the coronavirus that comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other verified medical professionals. There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the coronavirus, since it is such a new illness and just starting to be studied. Misinformation can be very dangerous at this time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have prepared this useful one page fact sheet on coronavirus symptoms, transmission, prevention, and what to do if you or someone in your family begins to experience symptoms: 2019-nCoV: What the public should do.(PDF)

This flier from the CDC is a helpful resource on basic techniques to prevent the spread of germs or infection of any type, not just Coronavirus: Stop the Spread of Germs flier (PDF)

This flier from the CDC shows the most common symptoms of coronavirus: Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease 2019 flier (PDF)

And if you or anyone in your home or your workplace starts showing symptoms or has a confirmed case of coronavirus, this CDC flier has important information on what to do: What to do if you are sick with coronavirus disease 2019 (PDF)

The most important thing we can all do right now to slow the spread of coronavirus is to practice “social distancing,” which means maintaining a safe distance between ourselves and others. This article includes an explanation of how to practice social distancing and why it is so important for everyone’s health in this moment: What is social distancing?

Information in languages other than English and Spanish: Switchboard, a resources hub for refugee services providers in the US has created a compilation of lots of information about the coronavirus from the CDC and other trusted sources in many different languages: Round-Up of Multilingual Resources on coronavirus.


Tips for Domestic Workers

The most important thing we can all do right now to slow the spread of coronavirus is to practice “social distancing,” which means maintaining a safe distance between ourselves and others, and staying home as much as possible. We hope that domestic workers will be able to stay home to care for ourselves and our families, and to slow the spread of the virus. However, we know that for many domestic workers, staying home from work is not an option. If you do need to continue working, we offer the following tips to help you stay safe on the job. 

About the use of face masks: The CDC does NOT recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Facemasks should be worn by people who show symptoms of coronavirus to help prevent the spread of the virus to others. The use of specialized facemasks is recommended for healthcare workers and caregivers who are taking care of individuals that have shown symptoms of the coronavirus (at home or in a healthcare facility). If the person you are caring for starts to show any symptoms of the coronavirus, you should contact a health professional right away to get information about how to protect yourself. If it is recommended that you wear a mask, check out these tips and videos from the World Health Organization about when to use a mask and how to use it properly. 


 

Tips for housecleaners (and anyone who does house cleaning as part of your work)

It is thought that the coronavirus can survive for hours or days on surfaces. There are important things that housecleaners can do to protect ourselves and our clients. These include:

  • Ask that your employer inform you if anyone in the home has any flu-like symptoms or may have been exposed to someone who has,and wait to reschedule cleanings until after a doctor has cleared that person for contact with others.
  • You can perform routine cleaning with the products you usually use. If there is a need to disinfect surfaces, consult this list of disinfectant products that can destroy coronavirus. Clean the surface first to remove dirt for best results. Follow the product label exactly. Because bleach-based products can cause or exacerbate asthma, if you have a choice it’s best to avoid bleach-based products and instead look for products that use hydrogen peroxide AND contain no peroxyacetic acid. On the EPA list of disinfectants, you can do a search by “hydrogen peroxide” and find which products are listed.
  • Ask your employer to provide non-latex disposable gloves, such as nitrile gloves,for your use.
  • Use good handwashing techniques while cleaning and before leaving your job.
  • As is always the case, make sure to take adequate safety precautions when using cleaning chemicals. Ensure that there is adequate ventilation when you use any surface cleaners, by opening windows or doors. Never mix cleaning products together or use one product on top of another on the same surface. If you are diluting products, there is no need to make it “stronger” than the label specifies – follow instructions on label. Check out this flier from the CDC and OSHA about cleaning chemicals and your health
  • Avoid spraying cleaning chemicals into the air or spraying to surfaces. It is preferable to spray into a wash cloth/wipe and then wipe the intended surface.
  • Avoid carrying cleaning supplies between homes in order to prevent the transfer of germs from one home to the next, and change your clothes upon return home from work.
  • Ask your clients to sign up for Alia–NDWA’s portable benefits platform that allows multiple clients to contribute to a paid time off fund for housecleaners–so that you can have paid time off in case you get sick or if your cleaning schedule is interrupted by a client’s illness. To find out more about Alia, you can sign up here and then Alia staff will give you instructions on how to get started. 

Tips for Home Care Workers

Home Care Workers should be aware that early data suggest older people are twice as likely to experience serious symptoms from coronavirus. This may be because immune systems change with age, making it harder to fight off diseases and infection. Older adults also are more likely to have underlying health conditions that make it harder to cope with and recover from illness. Many Home Care Workers also provide support services for people who have compromised immune systems, have cancer, or have received chemotherapy and therefore are at greater risk of serious illness. In addition, people of all ages, with or without disabilities, seem to be at higher risk for more serious coronavirus illness if they have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease (source: https://acl.gov/COVID-19). 

Our tips for home care workers include:

  • Limit visitors to the home/workplace.
  • Limit your own exposure to other people (because the person you care for may be particularly vulnerable to serious symptoms from coronavirus, it is especially important that you reduce the chances that you yourself are exposed to the virus so you don’t risk spreading it to your client).
  • Take extra handwashing breaks and practice good handwashing techniques
  • Change your clothes upon return home from work.
  • Work with your employer/client to ensure that the home is stocked with cleaning supplies, over the counter medicines, prescription medicines, and non-perishable foods, to minimize trips to the store.
  • Talk with your employer/client about backup plans for medical visits or treatments, in order to limit exposure to coronavirus in healthcare settings.
  • Talk with your employer/client about backup care plans in case either you or your client become ill. The materials in Section 3 below may help you with these conversations.

 

Tips for Nannies

Initial data indicates that children are at lesser risk of contracting severe coronavirus symptoms, but that could change. And we all know that children come into contact with germs more than just about anyone else! Here are a few tips for nannies during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Ask that your employer inform you if anyone in the home has any flu-like symptoms or may have been exposed to someone who has, and wait to resume work until after a doctor has cleared that person for contact with others.
  • Practice – and teach – good handwashing. Explain to children that this is both to protect ourselves, each other, and people in our communities who may be more vulnerable. Wash your hands when you arrive, and before and after handling food, helping children with the toilet or diaper changes, or helping children wipe their nose or mouth. 
  • Limit exposure to coronavirus by suspending activities that would puts you or them in close contact with others. Discuss alternative activity plans with your employer.
  • Time outside is important for children! However, as the virus can survive on hard surfaces, healthcare professionals are recommending avoiding playground equipment. Instead, you can think about outdoor activities that allow you and the children in your care to maintain a safe distance from others, such as going on walks or bike rides.
  • Support the children in your care to understand what’s happening with the coronavirus pandemic, respond to fear or confusion they may be feeling, and break down racist responses (see more information on this below). This comic has a good kid-friendly explanation of the coronavirus.
  • Talk with your employer about backup care plans in case either you or someone in your employer’s family becomes ill. The materials in the  section below may help you with these conversations.

Materials to share with domestic employers

Our sister organization, Hand in Hand the Domestic Employers Network, has written these guidelines on how employers can create safe workplaces for domestic workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Sharing these materials written by and for domestic employers can be a helpful way to start important conversations with your own employer. Here is a sample text that you can use to share these recommendations with your employer:

“I thought you would be interested in these materials from Hand in Hand, the Domestic Employers Network, on how we can help each other stay safe from coronavirus. Can we find a time to talk about these recommendations?”

As you prepare to talk with your employer, here are some things you may want to think about in advance and be ready to discuss:

  • Are there any additional supplies that would allow you to better protect yourself and the people in your care? What are those?
  • Are there any changes in your work routine that would allow you to better protect yourself and the people in your care? What are those?
  • Will your employer provide paid time off in case you become ill or someone in the employer’s family does?
  • What are your employer’s plans for alternate care arrangements if you become ill and are unable to provide care?
  • What are your employer’s plans for alternate care arrangements if the person or people in your care become ill with the coronavirus and you cannot perform your work duties without putting yourself at risk of infection?

Building Communities of Care

One of the best things we can do to keep ourselves and each other safe—during the coronavirus pandemic and always—is to build communities of care. This means a couple of different things.

SUPPORT other domestic workers, with neighbors and friends

Most of us are in touch with other domestic workers through our workplaces or family and friend networks. In these challenging times, it’s important that we check in with each other and form plans for mutual support. Mutual support could look like contacting each other if we need to find someone to cover shifts, sharing information, assisting with day to day needs in case one of us gets sick (like school pickups or grocery shopping), and raising funds to support each other if we lose work and income in this time. You can also join NDWA’s Facebook community to connect online with other domestic workers in your area.

practice social distancing and stay home

When we stay home and practice social distancing, we are protecting those in our communities who are most vulnerable to the virus. Now is a time for us to use other ways of staying in touch (phone, video chat, WhatsApp and Facebook groups, etc.) to check in on each other.

Prevent and stop racist responses to CORONAVIRUS

As is often the case at times of crisis and uncertainty, scapegoating is on the rise. Coronavirus has become a global pandemic that impacts people around the world in all racial and ethnic groups. However, since the virus first started to spread in China, people in Asian communities all around the world have faced racist backlash. In addition, we are seeing people use the coronavirus pandemic to promote anti-immigrant hate. The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance has created some tips on how to stop racist scapegoating while also stopping the spread of COVID-19. The full set of recommendations and fliers can be downloaded from their website, and here are a few things we pulled from those resources that we can all do:

  • Help stop the fear by letting people know that being of Asian descent does not increase the chance of getting or spreading coronavirus. Share accurate information about how the virus spreads. The CDC states that diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity. People of Asian descent, including Chinese Americans, are not more likely to get coronavirus than any other person.
  • When someone makes a “joke” or flippant comment about coronavirus, you can intervene by using one of the following responses: “I don’t get it. Can you explain why that is funny?” or “That’s not funny and that is not actually how the virus works.”
  • Stand in solidarity with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers – including domestic workers – by standing up to discrimination or other forms of abuse.
  • Stay vigilant and speak out against any new anti-immigrant policies that are proposed under the guise of public safety.

Information on accessing health care

We know that everyone should be able to access quality health care during this time of public health crisis, but most domestic workers do not have health insurance, and immigrant workers may face additional barriers to accessing health care. If you think you may have symptoms of the coronavirus and want to find out whether you should get tested, contact your regular medical provider if you have one. If you do not have a regular medical provider, your state may have a public health hotline that you can call to get information. You can search here for state by state information on coronavirus from public health departments and hotline numbers for each state. You can also contact a local community health center near you for assistance. Click here to find health centers

Here’s  useful information for immigrant communities about access to health care and your rights:

    • It is safe and smart to see the doctor if you need care. Your doctor is required to honor your right to privacy. You do not need to share any information about your immigration status unless you apply for Medicaid or other health coverage. 
    • You can still see a doctor without medical insurance. This includes care you receive in the emergency room, at community and migrant health centers, free clinics, and public hospitals. If you don’t have a doctor, call a local community health center for assistance, regardless of your immigration status.  You can find a health center here: https://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov 
    • Congress just passed the Families First Act, which provides additional funding to pay for coronavirus testing for anyone who is uninsured. The funding will pay for testing at community health centers, outpatient clinics, and doctors’ offices. If you want to find out about testing, you should call your local health center to find out about the availability of screening and testing instead of going in person. Health centers may do patient assessments over the phone or using telehealth. 
    • Many states have medical assistance programs that cover immigrants regardless of status (especially children and pregnant women). Click here to find Information on Medical Assistance Programs for Immigrants in Various States from the National Immigrant Law Center
    • Hospitals and health care spaces are safe to visit. Federal guidelines prohibit immigration agents from conducting arrests or other enforcement actions at health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, health clinics, and urgent care facilities.
    • CLICK HERE to learn more about your rights when accessing health services.

 

 

About Public Charge and health care for immigrants: On March 13, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that coronavirus testing, prevention, or treatment would NOT be used against immigrants in a public charge test. This means that immigrant families should seek the care they need during this time. To find out more about public charge and your rights, check out the Protecting Immigrant Families website: https://protectingimmigrantfamilies.org.