Saturday, February 27, 2021

Are campaigning politicians essential workers?

The police, first responders and key transportation and food workers in jobs that cannot be done remotely are usually considered essential workers.

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US Vice-President Mike Pence’s staff have been tested for Covid-19 after they were in contact with several infected people on election campaign stops.

His chief of staff, Marc Short, was among those who tested positive and he is now off the road, in quarantine. Pence tested negative on Sunday and decided to keep travelling and campaigning for President Donald Trump, reports AP.

Also on Sunday, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien called Pence “an essential worker” and said, “essential workers going out and campaigning are about as essential as things we can do as Americans”.

Essential workers as defined in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are the police, first responders and key transportation and food workers in jobs that cannot be done remotely.

“I don’t see election campaigning on that list,” said Joshua Sharfstein, of Johns Hopkins University. “Anything that does not have to be done in person and anything not related to his job as vice-president would not be considered essential.”

Thomas Tsai, of Harvard University, said, “Maintaining the function of government could be considered critical work, but we’ve always historically separated campaigning from official duties.”

Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University school of law, told AP that Pence’s intention to continue campaigning flouts the spirit of the CDC guidelines.

Sharfstein agreed, saying Pence could be putting people at risk because he’s at high risk of becoming infected himself. “He should quarantine in order to protect other people.”

The most recent numbers show Covid-19 cases are still rising in 75% of the US.

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