Health officials point to living arrangements, workplace environment as recent common trends for COVID-19

Going to work or staying at home when you’re sick with COVID-19 –– some health officials in Northern Virginia say it’s not always an easy decision for those who don’t have much of a choice.

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“In Northern Virginia in general, there are lots of people who don’t have paid sick leave,” explained Natalie Talis, population health manager with the Alexandria Health Department. “There are people who don’t have benefits to even have health insurance to go to a doctor when they are sick, so we are asking them to do the right thing but we are also asking the employer to do the right thing, maybe now is the time to start offering sick leave.”

The department conducted a survey of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alexandria that helped provide insight into the potential common sources of exposure.

Since September, the department’s case investigators interviewed 422 residents diagnosed with COVID-19.

Case investigators asked people to recall their activities in the two weeks before they felt sick.

An analysis of the interviews found that about 44 percent of people reported recently getting the virus while living with someone who was sick.

Twenty-five percent of people, which is more than 100 people, said they likely caught it from their workplace and 10 percent went to a public event, social gathering or entertainment activity with most occurring indoors.

A total of seven percent traveled outside the D.C area with mainly travel in the U.S., and seven percent went to a restaurant or bar. Two-thirds of those who went to a restaurant or bar ate indoors, and one-third ate outdoors.

FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan asked various health departments in the DMV how difficult it is to keep the virus from spreading to an infected person has no choice but to go work.

“In Maryland, there are 24 local health jurisdictions and each of those has a robust workforce that works daily to connect people with resources, whether that’s housing or food, it varies by each local jurisdiction,” said Dr. Katherine Feldman, director of the contact tracing unit at the Maryland Department of Health.

“Our system combined with the racism that’s existed for decades means that people of color are more likely to not have those opportunities and it’s harder for them to take on those preventive measures,” said Talis. “That just means we are trying to direct more resources, more education and more support to those communities.”

Ayesha also inquired with the Fairfax County Department of Health.

Spokesperson, John Silcox said in a statement:

“We did not do a formal study in the same way that Alexandria Health Department did, but we are seeing similar trends to what they noted about exposures occurring in worksites and at events and gatherings.

We continue to recommend people take all necessary precautions to limit their exposures, to wear face coverings, to maintain social distancing in public settings, avoid large gatherings, and to stay home when sick. For those who may test positive for COVID-19 and for those who may have been in close contact with someone who has, we would encourage people to answer the call from the Health Department and to follow our guidance for how long to stay home and away from others.”