FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers a commencement speech during a ceremony with post-secondary graduates in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada June 10, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada will take airline passengers’ temperatures before they fly and anyone with a fever will not be allowed to travel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.
“Temperature checks will not be detecting people with COVID-19,” Trudeau said in a news conference. “It’s an extra layer of safety to encourage people who might feel sick to stay home and not put others at risk.”
The screening will be phased in, with those arriving in Canada being screened by the end of June, and then for those leaving the country as well as for domestic travelers at the country’s four biggest airports by the end of July.
If a traveler is found to have a fever after two separate measurements 10 minutes apart, they will be asked to rebook after 14 days have passed, the transport minister said.
Canada and the United States are set to extend a ban on non-essential travel to late July as both countries seek to control the spread of the coronavirus, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this week.
Canada last week said it would require most airport workers and flight crews to wear non-medical masks.
The spread of the coronavirus has slowed in Canada in recent weeks, and all the provinces have begun to ease restrictions and open up for business again. As of Thursday, Canada had recorded 97,530 total cases and 7,994 deaths, up from 7,960 deaths a day earlier, official data show.
More than 80% of the deaths have been in long-term care facilities and nursing homes, prompting Ottawa to send the military to help out.
Also on Friday, Trudeau extended the military presence in long-term care homes in both Ontario and Quebec until June 26. When the military pulls out, the Canadian Red Cross will be moving in to help, Trudeau said.
Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis
BRAUNSCHWEIG, Germany (Reuters) – German and British investigators looking into the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann 13 years ago are relying on hundreds of tips from the public to firm up evidence against Christian B., a suspected rapist they believe murdered her.
FILE PHOTO: Kate and Gerry McCann pose with a computer generated image of how their missing daughter Madeleine might look now, during a news conference in London May 2, 2012. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
The 43-year-old German with a string of prior convictions was living in the Algarve region of Portugal when 3-year-old Madeleine vanished from her bedroom, sparking one of Europe’s largest-ever missing person investigations.
His emergence as a suspect in recent weeks has brought a the case back to the front pages of British newspapers.
Cellular phone data places the suspect near the holiday home where Madeleine was sleeping when she disappeared while her parents were at a restaurant in the holiday resort.
But more evidence is needed to be certain of keeping him in the prison in Kiel where he is currently serving a sentence for drug dealing, Hans Christian Wolters, a prosecutor in the central German city of Braunschweig, told Reuters on Friday.
Police broadcast a televised appeal for information last week in the hope that members of the public might turn up evidence needed to bring charges. Since then police in Britain and Germany have received “hundreds” of tips, Wolters said.
“Our investigation has turned up some evidence that was reason enough for us to go to the public, but it is an open secret that our suspicions are not firm enough to issue an arrest warrant,” he said.
Under German law, police have not released the suspect’s surname and media in Germany are not permitted to report it, although it has appeared in some British media. Calls to lawyers representing the suspect were not answered.
Braunschweig prosecutors are leading the investigation because the city was the last place the suspect had a fixed abode in Germany.
Wolters said the investigation would be more difficult if the suspect is released. He has already served two-thirds of his sentence, meaning a court could free him any day now.
Prosecutors have prepared another warrant for his arrest in a separate case over the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old American woman in Algarve, but the suspect is challenging the validity of that warrant at an EU court.
Wolters declined to comment on a report in Der Spiegel magazine on Friday that police had inadvertently warned the suspect they were investigating him over the McCann case as far back as 2013.
“I can’t say if those investigations were optimal or if there were any shortcomings,” he said.
Reporting by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Peter Graff
HANOI (Reuters) – Stuck at home with school suspended, Nguyen Doi Chung Anh made the most of a lockdown in Vietnam by using art to demonstrate tragedy, resilience and chaos in the world’s battle against the coronavirus.
The work of 10-year-old Chung Anh shows how events unfolded globally, depicting the devastation with drawings of the coronavirus attacking landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben and the Leaning Tower of Pisa as it spread through Europe, the United States and beyond.
Her pictures also aim to highlight Vietnam’s success in containing the virus after a wave of imported infections, one with a virus-hit passenger plane in the arms of two soldiers and another showing the same flight intercepted by medical workers who spray disinfectant from fighter jets.
They refer to the fated flight VN54 which brought in a fresh batch of infected people after Vietnam had declared itself virus-free for three weeks. The country has reported 332 cases and no deaths.
Chung Anh drew herself in one picture about her safety to show appreciation for frontliners, who appear in most of her 11 drawings fighting the virus with shields or blasting it with disinfectant.
“I drew this with hope that they can keep their spirits high to prevent an outbreak,” she said. “This girl is me, here I am drawing and these things are my imagination.”
Several pictures feature the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship aboard which hundreds of passengers were infected, and Li Wenliang, the late Chinese doctor and one of the most visible figures of the pandemic, who was reprimanded when he issued early warning about the virus.
Chung Anh’s mother, Doi Xuan Hieu, chose that as her favorite.
“I was touched seeing that she can sympathize and acknowledge the sacrifice of the doctors who risked and lost their lives,” she said.
Reporting by Thinh Nguyen and Minh Nguyen; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Kim Coghill
Stocks sold off Thursday amid investor worries that a “second wave” of coronavirus infections could cause countries and states that are reopening to lock down again. But headlines about a coronavirus resurgence in the U.S. are overblown so far, and the bigger threat is keeping the economy in a coma.
“We know as a fact that reopening other states we’re seeing significant problems,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “Twelve states that reopened are now seeing spikes. This is a very real possibility.” This is Mr. Cuomo’s…
I want to get back to the pandemic, which is not at the moment being seen for what it is. It is taking place within a very different context. It has been subsumed by the Upheaval, the culture-shaking event we are undergoing as a nation.
States have begun to reopen, people are going out. Covid-19 feels like yesterday’s story—we don’t want to think about it, we’re barely out of the house. But it’s tomorrow’s story too.
In theory, President Trump is in a pitched battle with Joe Biden for the presidency. In reality, Mr. Trump is in a battle with Mr. Trump.
That’s one way to look at the recent round of sliding Trump poll numbers, which the media and Democrats are prematurely hailing as an obituary for the administration, but which also have Republicans nervous. Mr. Trump’s path to re-election rests in painting a sharp contrast between his policies of economic restoration, a transformed judiciary and limited government with those of Mr. Biden’s…
North Korea on Friday said it was abandoning attempts to pursue a diplomatic relationship with the White House because two years after a historic handshake between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un “even a slim ray of optimism” for peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula had “faded away into a dark nightmare.”
The statement by North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon, published on state media, represented the clearest indication yet that Pyongyang appears to have all but given up on improving ties with the Trump administration and working toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The phrase formed the basis of a vaguely worded accord between Trump and Kim Jong Un when the two leaders shook hands during a carefully choreographed summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.
Trump broke with diplomatic norms and protocol when he became the first sitting American president to hold a face-to-face meeting with a leader of North Korea. A year later, he made another unconventional move by diplomatic standards by briefly stepping on to North Korean soil as he met with North Korea’s dictator at the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily fortified and guarded border area that separates the two Koreas. A third meeting, in Vietnam, ended in stalemate after Kim insisted that all the sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Pyongyang be lifted before North Korea committed to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.
Since then, there has been little active public dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang. However, North Korea’s statement Friday appeared to indicate that relations between the two administrations had deteriorated beyond repair.
“Never again will we provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns,” Ri said, referring to Trump.
“Nothing is more hypocritical than an empty promise.”
There was no immediate reaction from the White House or the U.S. State Department to North Korea’s comments. Ri said North Korea would continue to build up its military forces, including its nuclear program, to counter what it sees as U.S. threats.
“The U.S. professes to be an advocate for improved relations. But in fact, it is hell-bent on only exacerbating the situation,” he added.
In recent days, North Korea has also stepped up its angry rhetoric at South Korea, saying it was severing all communications with its neighbor because it had failed to stop anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets emanating from the South from reaching its territory.
Despite the diplomatic energy Trump poured into North Korea, the country has continued to test long-range ballistic missiles. When Trump signed the agreement with Kim in 2018, political scientists warned that the accord fell short of previous international accords and lacked a concrete roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization.
Speculation that Kim may have died from the coronavirus or from botched heart surgery reached a fever-pitch earlier this year after he disappeared from public view for several weeks. He suddenly reappeared on May 2 at the opening of a fertilizer plant.
“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Trump tweeted after Kim resurfaced, the last time he appears to have spoken publabout his North Korean counterpart. While Trump has continued to refer to Kim as a friend he has had relatively little to say about his administration’s stalled nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has authorized economic sanctions against members of the International Criminal Court who are investigating possible war crimes by American personnel during the war in Afghanistan, the White House announced Thursday.
The new move is part of a concerted campaign against the international court and its probe into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by U.S. and other forcesin that conflict.
“This administration will not allow American citizens who have served our country to be subjected to illegitimate investigations,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Thursday at an event announcing the action.
Human rights advocates denounced the Trump administration’s decision as “reckless,” charging the U.S. with trying to evade accountability for alleged torture and other war crimes.
“The ICC’s investigation is only necessary because the U.S. has failed to meaningfully investigate or prosecute its own forces for human rights abuses,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center, a New York-based organization that promotes the enforcement of international human rights laws.
“The court has confirmed that this investigation clearly falls under parameters” of the statute that established the ICC, she said. “The U.S. is not a party to the statute, but Afghanistan is, and the U.S. cannot escape accountability just because it commits crimes in other countries.”
Esper was joined Thursday by Trump’s other top national security advisers – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Bill Barr and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien – in what was billed as a news conference. But they did not take any questions, instead, reading prepared remarks and leaving.
O’Brien alleged the ICC was being “manipulated” by Russia in pushing its war crimes probe, but he provided no evidence to support that claim. Barr said the Department of Justice had information about “financial corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels” of the ICC prosecutor’s office but provided no details or substantiation.
Trump signed an executive order Thursday to authorize the sanctions, but it does not specify individual members of the ICC. Pompeo said the sanctions would be imposed on a case-by-case basis against ICC officials “directly engaged” in the investigation of U.S. or allied forces and others who have supported the probe.
The Trump administration had already imposed visa restrictions on officials from the ICC so they could not come to the United States as part of the probe. In announcing the visa restrictions last year, Pompeo said they were intended to get the ICC to drop its probe. On Thursday, he said the visa prohibitions would be expanded to family members of the ICC.
“We cannot allow ICC officials and their families to come to the United States to shop, travel and otherwise enjoy American freedoms as these same officials seek to prosecute the defender of those very freedoms,” Pompeo said.
The ICC has provided few details about its investigation, launched in 2017. The ICC’s prosecutor’s office has said it has “found a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity were and continue to be committed by members of Afghan and foreign government forces and by anti-government forces such as the Taliban.”
After Pompeo announced the visa restrictions, the ICC issued a statement saying it would “continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law.”
The ICC has long been controversial, and conservatives in the U.S. have suggested it’s a threat to American sovereignty. Supporters say the Netherlands-based court offers recourse for victims of genocide and other war crimes in lawless countries.
It was first envisioned in 1998 by the Rome Treaty as a tribunal to prosecute genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity. The ICC calls itself “a court of last resort” that seeks to “complement, not replace” domestic judicial systems.
WASHINGTON — When Jonathan Corpina, a senior managing partner at Meridian Equity Partners, returned to work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in late May, he was met with temperature screenings, hand sanitizer stations, plexiglass barriers — and a liability waiver.
The stock exchange required Mr. Corpina and others who work there to acknowledge that returning to work could expose them to the coronavirus, and to promise not to sue if they were infected. Mr. Corpina said that he felt comfortable with that risk, and that he believed other companies would most likely follow suit.
“This is not something that is going to be unique to this building, in my opinion,” he said of the waiver.
Whether companies are liable if their workers and customers catch the coronavirus has become a key question as businesses seek to reopen around the country. Companies and universities — and the groups that represent them — say they are vulnerable to a wave of lawsuits if they reopen while the coronavirus continues to circulate widely, and they are pushing Congress for temporary legal protections they say will help get the economy running again.
But that idea has engendered stiff opposition, particularly among congressional Democrats and labor unions, who say some businesses are doing too little to protect vulnerable workers, and that such a liability shield would only encourage reckless behavior.
For the moment, states and companies are taking matters into their own hands. States like Alabama, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah have issued executive orders or passed legislation to give businesses more protection if their workers or customers get the coronavirus.
Amusement parks, salons, real estate businesses and gyms have begun requiring attendees, customers and workers to sign liability waivers pledging not to sue. Even attendees registering for President Trump’s upcoming rallies must acknowledge the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, and promise not to sue.
“By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to Covid-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc,” and any of their employees or affiliates liable for illness or injury, a disclaimer on the registration site for rally tickets reads.
The debate is coming to a head in Washington, as Congress considers its next round of coronavirus legislation. Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, has singled out liability protection as his conference’s top priority, with White House officials echoing that sentiment. Lawmakers expect some version of coronavirus relief could pass through both chambers before the end of the summer.
“No bill will pass without it,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader, said in May of liability protections.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other powerful lobbying groups have thrown their weight behind such protections, claiming that lawsuits could devastate companies that are already struggling financially, and that the threat of litigation could mean some businesses choose to remain shut, crippling efforts to restart the economy.
Conservative groups including the Koch Network and FreedomWorks have warned of a wave of “predatory, self-serving lawsuits” from trial lawyers who have “plotted to line their pockets with Covid-19 related lawsuits.” Last month, dozens of industry trade associations, including those representing grocers, retailers and restaurateurs, told Congress that without protections, the threat of litigation could put many small businesses permanently out of business.
“You’ve got to give the businesses some confidence here that if something happens, and it may not be their fault — the disease is an infectious disease — if something happens, you can’t take them out of business,” the White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said in April on CNBC. “You can’t throw big lawsuits at them.”
Smaller businesses are especially concerned about their legal liability.
Maxine Turner, 72, who owns Cuisine Unlimited, a catering company in Salt Lake City, said she was worried about legal action from employees who are called back to work or from clients who want their deposits back.
“In the back of our mind,” Ms. Turner said, “we were thinking, does this leave us as a company liable if we force these issues?” Federal liability protections, she said, “would set us at ease.”
Paul Hymas, a founder and the president of the Las Vegas restaurant chain Nacho Daddy, found himself embroiled in controversy last month after he asked employees to sign a liability waiver upon returning to work. Mr. Hymas reversed course after employees publicly complained, but he still worries about legal action.
“The general concern is for frivolous lawsuits,” said Mr. Hymas, who employs about 380 workers. “We really do just want to serve nachos.”
But trial lawyers — as well as some legal experts — say the risk of lawsuits from workers or customers may be overstated.
“The idea that there is going to be this cavalcade of lawsuits is a total myth,” said Linda Lipsen, the chief executive of the American Association for Justice, which represents trial lawyers. “Outside of meatpacking plants, cruises, nursing homes, veterans homes and other hot spots, there is not going to be that race to the courthouse because there are already all of these barriers to getting to court.”
Ms. Lipsen said that current laws already protect companies from lawsuits if they take “reasonable” precautions to safeguard their workers. And with the virus widely circulating, it is difficult for lawyers to prove in court that employees were infected at work, rather than while commuting or shopping for groceries.
David C. Vladeck, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, told lawmakers the same thing last month at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. And when it comes to stimulating the economy, further liability protections could actually backfire, he said, by eroding the public’s trust.
“Immunity signals to workers and consumers that they go back to work or they go to the grocery store at their peril,” Mr. Vladeck said.
Tracking suggests that, at least for the moment, such lawsuits are rare in the United States.
According to data collected by the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, 2,645 coronavirus-related lawsuits have been filed in the United States this year as of June 11. But the majority of those disputes relate to insurance coverage, prisoner and detainee petitions, and civil right cases, including challenges to stay-at-home orders. Only 49 of the cases related to conditions of employment, including exposure to the coronavirus at work or a lack of protective gear, while 77 relate to unlawful termination, according to the law firm.
The database also records only seven personal injury cases from consumers who were exposed to the coronavirus in a public place, and two wrongful death cases from public exposure.
Ms. Lipsen said the current push for liability protections reflects a longstanding effort by corporations to secure more legal protections in times of crisis, including after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and swine flu epidemic.
“They have been doing this for decades,” she said. “Every time there is a crisis, that’s what they do.”
Unions including the United Steelworkers, the United Farm Workers, the Teamsters and the American Federation of Teachers have also protested expanded liability protections, fearing that they would lead to laxer safety standards for workers. Many essential workers are already being forced to choose between their safety and a paycheck, unions leaders say, and those risks are falling disproportionately on workers of color.
Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which represents workers in grocery stores and meatpacking plants, told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on May 12 that offering employers immunity “would exacerbate some of the more outlaw employers that we may have in this country.”
“Immunity laws could send dangerous messages that the safety of these workers is not the company’s responsibility,” Mr. Perrone said.
Instead, unions and worker advocates are calling for the federal government to issue clearer safety standards for businesses that are reopening, saying that those guidelines could help determine whether businesses have broken those rules and can be taken to court.
The White House has so far fought against issuing detailed standards for businesses, arguing they would infringe on religious rights and risk damaging the economy by making it too onerous for businesses to reopen.
What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?
Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
How does blood type influence coronavirus?
A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.
Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?
Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.
How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?
Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.
My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?
States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
In a congressional hearing last week, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was “essentially shrugging their shoulders as workers get sick and die.”
Ms. Warren said such a stance would essentially backfire given “keeping customers safe — keeping workers safe — is the only way we’re going to reopen this economy.”
In negotiations over past relief packages, Democrats have pushed for more federal protections for workers under OSHA, and Republicans have repeatedly rejected those provisions.
It remains to be seen if they can find common ground in the coming months. Along with Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, Mr. McConnell is leading the process of drafting legislation, including liability protections for schools, religious institutions, restaurants and bars. Congress has already ruled that companies pumping out much-needed masks without approval from the Food and Drug Administration cannot be sued if their users contract the coronavirus.
Mr. Cornyn said the liability rules were needed to “eliminate some of the uncertainty that will prevent people who might otherwise reopen from reopening.”
Liability is typically regulated at the state level, and several states have already expanded protections for businesses that are reopening. California, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota and others have also revised workers’ compensation rules to allow health care workers, first responders and some other essential workers to be compensated if they get sick from the coronavirus. (Workers’ compensation typically does not cover infectious diseases, like the flu.)
Some workers have signaled that they would be willing to pursue litigation against their employers if they fell ill at work. In a survey of more than 500 workers conducted in May by the Sports and Leisure Research Group, Engagious and ROKK Solutions, 36 percent said they would most likely take legal action against their employers if they returned to work and contracted the coronavirus after learning that a co-worker had been infected.
“The entire liability issue may become another unfortunate, but critical, residue left by the pandemic,” said Jon Last, the president of the Sports and Leisure Research Group.
Several lawsuits have been already filed, including one by the widow of a Safeway distribution center employee who recently sued for negligence and wrongful death, saying her husband had been forced to work in close quarters with other sick employees. The family of a worker at a Chicago-area Walmart has also filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.
But employees may have a more difficult time winning lawsuits. Of the litigation filed against businesses alleging that they spread the coronavirus, many have focused on nursing homes, meatpacking plants, cruises and other hot spots that critics say have clearly neglected safety considerations.
Julia Duncan, the senior director of government affairs for the American Association for Justice, said that, win or lose, these cases were already shining a spotlight on dangerous conditions and forcing employers to take more precautions.
“If the federal government isn’t going to go in and investigate, I want there to be important lawsuits where we’re asking questions about why people are being exposed and dying,” Ms. Duncan said. “This is exactly why the justice system exists.”