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Old 03-23-2020, 02:07 PM
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Advice sought about my cleaning lady re COVID


I have a woman "Mary Lou" (not her name) who comes to clean every other Monday. I'm 71 and live alone in a pretty small house. She's been coming for nine years. Her next day would be a Mar 30, week from today. Should I let her keep coming based on the following considerations?

Usually when she arrives, we greet each other, exchange some small talk, and then I leave. She's not here all that long, maybe 3 hours max. In the past I left for my morning mall walk and visit to Starbucks; now I guess it will be just for a walk. It gives her the freedom to work, play the radio loudly, sing, whatever she wants. I trust her completely.

When she came last Monday (Mar 16), I told her that my synagogue and the Episcopal church where I sing in the choir, and indeed, most churches in town have stopped holding services because of the ease of transmission of COVID. The Archdiocese has canceled all masses-- during Lent, for (St.) Pete's sake.

She told me that her devout, evangelical church was still holding Sunday services (that would have been Sunday, Mar 15). EEK! She said something like the pastor hired cleaning people and got gloves for everyone and they're trusting God to take care of them (said with a glance heavenward). EEK, again!

I don't know if they've canceled services yet, because I haven't talked to her since last Monday, but I plan to call her and find out before this coming weekend. I want to have my speech ready for when I do ask her and she tells me, one way or the other. If she tells me they are still meeting and hugging and shaking hands, etc., I will not want to be in her presence at all.

I would not fire her and will keep paying her, as I know she depends on the income. This $$ would not be a problem for me. OTOH, we're not in each other's presence when she does come, and I could reduce that to ZERO by leaving before she gets here or waving to her from my car when she arrives. I'm sure she would understand, and that part doesn't worry me. She's all over the house, touching stuff, but she's cleaning, and repeatedly washing her hands during the process.

I'm otherwise being very prudent and diligent in my self-isolation. Would canceling Mary Lou come under the heading of (1) prudence to the Nth degree, or (2) going too far unnecessarily? Part II, should my answer be different depending on whether she's still attending these services (or others) or whether they've canceled?

How are others handling the issue of outside people who come to work in your home?

Last edited by ThelmaLou; 03-23-2020 at 02:09 PM.
  #2  
Old 03-23-2020, 02:52 PM
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How are others handling the issue of outside people who come to work in your home?
Absolutetly not. At this point, my own mother is forbidden from crossing my threshold. Please take this public health emergency a lot more seriously.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:06 PM
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Step one is to communicate your concerns to "Mary Lou". Share your concerns openly and see what workarounds may be available. With that being said, you're the one who has to be happy here. This is your health, your home and your obligation to be a zealous advocate for both.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:18 PM
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We cancelled our housecleaner, paid her for two sessions, and we’ll check back in a month. Not worth the risk.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:22 PM
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Given your age and other things you've mentioned about your vulnerabilities, and how much she's still circulating in the community, I wouldn't risk it.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:23 PM
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Thanks for the helpful replies.

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Originally Posted by jnglmassiv View Post
... Please take this public health emergency a lot more seriously.
Gratuitous snark uncalled for.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:25 PM
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Pay her as much as you can anyway but don't let her in your house. She needs the money.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:44 PM
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Given your age and other things you've mentioned about your vulnerabilities, and how much she's still circulating in the community, I wouldn't risk it.
Agreed. Regardless of the amount of cleaning she is doing, the virus can potentially survive for days on interior surfaces, and she could contaminate a newly cleaned surface with a single cough. Just pay her for the duration if you can and tell her that you are following medical guidance to limit your exposure because you are in a high risk category. If she takes offense, that his her problem, not yours.

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Old 03-23-2020, 03:53 PM
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Add me to the chorus. It's very kind and good of you to be so concerned over Mary Lou's personal welfare and her need for the income, but now is the moment to follow good medical recommendations to the letter. There's no point in being as diligent as you are being, only to risk it all due to a visit from someone who seems fairly oblivious to the serious nature of the crisis.

Plus we don't want to risk losing you.

Do what you can, but protect yourself first.
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Old 03-23-2020, 03:57 PM
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We have limited it as much as possible, then cleaned any surface they touched plus sprayed Lysol and taken showers after they left. Not super feasible if it's your cleaning person. We paid our twice-a-month person and asked her not to come. That's without anyone articulating trust in G-d as a disinfectant.
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Old 03-23-2020, 04:14 PM
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Gratuitous snark uncalled for.
No snark was intended. It's also not only your own personal risk. Suppose you're already a carrier and infectious and it's Mary Lou that brings it to her church and leads to 30 cases. This is why we're getting stay-at-home orders and very serious cautions to avoid contact across the country and world.
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Old 03-23-2020, 04:18 PM
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We cancelled our housecleaner, paid her for two sessions, and we’ll check back in a month. Not worth the risk.
That's exactly what we did.
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Old 03-23-2020, 04:40 PM
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Point taken. Thanks, all.
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Old 03-23-2020, 04:47 PM
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I just called her and told her she can't come any more. That I can't have anyone in my house except me. She didn't miss a beat and was fine with that. I have a feeling others are canceling her, but probably not paying her. I asked her to send me a photo of a check so I can electronically deposit money in her account. Her church is not holding in-person services any more, I guess God got the message through to the pastor.
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Old 03-23-2020, 08:29 PM
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It's really good of you to keep paying her; I'm sure she needs it. I'm glad she's taking it well. Good luck hunkering down!
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Old 03-23-2020, 09:18 PM
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The very first thing you should start off your convo with is that you're committed to paying her her normal wages for as long as this situation goes on. You want her to know that she can have a dependable source of income so she's not forced by her economic circumstance to engage in potentially risky behavior.

The second thing is you should be considering transmission from the other way as well. You don't know if you have the virus at this point so you should be acting as if you do and you're asymptomatically spreading it. You're putting her at risk by having her touch surfaces you've previously touched and obviously vice versa as well.

Thirdly, you should be considering if there are ways you can keep your entire community safer. Do you know any of her other clients? Do you know if they're also committed to paying her even for not coming? If they haven't thought about it yet, is there any way you can call them and convince them this is the right thing to do? Do you have any friends you know who hire personal help? Can you call them and have them all agree to continue paying service workers not to come? If any of them are not financially comfortable enough that this would be a big imposition, can you organize other friends to chip in and cover the cost? (call it a "loan" if it would make them more comfortable).

These actions are outside of a lot of people's comfort zones but it's clear that support from official sources is going to be limited and variable in these times so we need to figure out how to protect ourselves with grassroots efforts like these and that requires us to stretch ourselves a bit whenever possible.
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Old 03-24-2020, 12:03 AM
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I've been wondering about this very same thing. I really could benefit from having the house cleaned but I don't know if the risk is worth it.
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Old 03-24-2020, 12:04 AM
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A minister in Arkansas contracted the virus and he in turn infected his wife. 26 church members have tested positive. 14 outstanding tests yet to go.
No minister in their right mind should be holding services. Too dangerous.
Thelma, good on you for continuing to paying her.
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Old 03-24-2020, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Twoflower View Post
We cancelled our housecleaner, paid her for two sessions, and we’ll check back in a month. Not worth the risk.
We have two ladies that come every two weeks. They have children so are perhaps more likely to carry infection. They were scheduled for this Thursday, but I've delayed their next visit until further data is available.

I've sent them a check for the normal amount.
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Old 03-24-2020, 11:10 AM
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Lots of good advice already. To add to it, I saw advice elsewhere that you should not leave it up to them to return "when they feel comfortable." They are probably not eligible for unemployment, so they will be under extreme pressure to come back as soon as possible if they aren't being paid. And given their likely health insurance status, you are really putting them at risk.

And appealing to everyone's best side: pay your cleaning person for as long as you can financially. For those who are putting a time limit on it, I totally understand if your finances are at risk with the current situation. But if you were planning on spending the money anyway and it's only a matter of not wanting to pay someone for work they can't do, then it's a good time to look a little deeper in your heart. Cleaning people typically don't have a big nest egg or safety net to fall back on.
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Old 03-24-2020, 01:37 PM
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My mother's aide/cleaning lady/cook is very pregnant and was kind of stretching the last weeks before being replaced by her niece. Mom has paid her in advance for the work she would have done during the two weeks the lockdown was originally announced; they'll be paid "as if" for the whole duration.

Mom's shopping is being done by one of my brothers. Most of her house can simply be kept shut and she always has a ton of half-cooked things such as stock that she can pull out and use.

In Spain the RCC and Iglesia Evangélica (it's a locally-grown one, not the American ones, although we have some of these as well) have closed down services; I think everybody has, really, it's only that those are the ones I know about. Mass is usually televised by the equivalent of PBS on Sundays; there is a chain which is owned by the RCC (well, by a Foundation, but...) and it's offering Mass daily. 11am most days, noon on Sundays.

Last edited by Nava; 03-24-2020 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 03-24-2020, 02:07 PM
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I'm in the same situation as ThelmaLou except:

I'm 63 and at higher risk due to lupus.
I'm visually impaired and can't see most dirt.
During lupus flares, I can't clean.
My cleaning lady is 60, healthy, and cleans only one other place (that of a retired nurse' who's self-quarantined 2 weeks and is germ-phobic--immaculate apartment), and is otherwise self-isolating. She does not go to church, visit her grandchildren, or shop. (Her son leaves groceries on her doorstep.)She washes her hands very frequently and disinfects after herself.

I do NOT want to endanger her, myself, or others. I would pay her not to come. But I think we're talking many months of this, not just a few weeks, and I'm having a hard time imagining how filthy this place will get. Also, she is going to want to come and clean anyway because she likes it. (Her only oddity, I swear.)

ThelmaLou, sorry if I'm jacking the thread.
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Old 03-24-2020, 02:22 PM
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Ours has already sent notice that due to COVID they were temporarily halting services. They come to our home monthly and we will pay them for April and re-evaluate where we are at in May. By that I mean, evaluate if there is still significant risk and if there is we'll pay them again for May.
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Old 03-24-2020, 02:26 PM
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My barn cancelled riding lessons for the next two weeks (I expect that to go on for a while). They cancelled, not me. My riding instructor doesn't have a lot of money. I've been trying to decide if I should offer to pay her, but frankly, $65 for a 30 minute lesson is my big splurge for the week, and I've lost 40% of my 401k in the last month. I've paid ahead for a few lessons, but should I offer to pay ahead for more? Just pay her anyway?

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Old 03-24-2020, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
I'm in the same situation as ThelmaLou except:

I'm 63 and at higher risk due to lupus.
I'm visually impaired and can't see most dirt.
During lupus flares, I can't clean.
My cleaning lady is 60, healthy, and cleans only one other place (that of a retired nurse' who's self-quarantined 2 weeks and is germ-phobic--immaculate apartment), and is otherwise self-isolating. She does not go to church, visit her grandchildren, or shop. (Her son leaves groceries on her doorstep.)She washes her hands very frequently and disinfects after herself.

I do NOT want to endanger her, myself, or others. I would pay her not to come. But I think we're talking many months of this, not just a few weeks, and I'm having a hard time imagining how filthy this place will get. Also, she is going to want to come and clean anyway because she likes it. (Her only oddity, I swear.)

ThelmaLou, sorry if I'm jacking the thread.
Not at all, nelliebly.* I'm interested in other people's experiences, too. She sounds like someone whose isolation standards are up to yours. I think I would have her keep coming. Maybe cut back to once a month?




*You're one of my faves.
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Old 03-24-2020, 07:11 PM
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My wife cleans houses. I started the business and worked with her for 19 years until last year when a back issue (largely from cleaning for so many years) made me have to leave our business. She has been agonizing about what to do here. On one hand if she doesn't work there is no income. On the other hand she didn't want to be responsible for picking up a virus somewhere and bringing it home, or to other homes that she cleaned. She did take steps to limit such risk but again, nothing is perfect.

She had a couple people cancel really quickly. Our governor just issued a stay home order and our business isn't "necessary" so today was her last day. She sent out emails to all of our clients. Out of 20 clients two have offered to pay something to help so far. One of them did so right off the bat when they cancelled early in this issue on their own. So one additional person has agreed to do so, at least for one cleaning.

I started a life coaching practice about a year ago and primarily work with people that are often low income in the niche that I serve. I chose to do that and even have "pay what you want" pricing to help. I'm already seeing cancellations there too as people hunker down. I don't know how long this will go on but it should be interesting. I've worked really hard over the years to make sure we had an emergency fund so we will be fine, but those funds don't replenish themselves so they'll take a lot of hard work to get back.

So from someone that worked in that business for years, someone whose wife still does, thank you all for your generosity and for helping. It is a very personal service and our relationships with the families we work with has meant so much over the years. Everyone works together and it's a win-win for everyone.
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Old 03-24-2020, 07:39 PM
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We have a couple that come and clean every Saturday and when I called last Friday to cancel, the husband told me that their daughter has covid-like symptoms and they were thinking of canceling. It didn't occur to me to offer to pay them, but I think I will call tomorrow to ask about their daughter and offer that. They each have day jobs so I'm not so sure they actually need the money. They live in a house in the suburbs with a swimming pool. But I will offer. Obviously we can afford it since we pay them. But I can and will mop a floor.
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Old 03-24-2020, 07:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by justanothermike View Post
My wife cleans houses. I started the business and worked with her for 19 years until last year when a back issue (largely from cleaning for so many years) made me have to leave our business. She has been agonizing about what to do here. On one hand if she doesn't work there is no income. On the other hand she didn't want to be responsible for picking up a virus somewhere and bringing it home, or to other homes that she cleaned. She did take steps to limit such risk but again, nothing is perfect.

She had a couple people cancel really quickly. Our governor just issued a stay home order and our business isn't "necessary" so today was her last day. She sent out emails to all of our clients. Out of 20 clients two have offered to pay something to help so far. One of them did so right off the bat when they cancelled early in this issue on their own. So one additional person has agreed to do so, at least for one cleaning.

I started a life coaching practice about a year ago and primarily work with people that are often low income in the niche that I serve. I chose to do that and even have "pay what you want" pricing to help. I'm already seeing cancellations there too as people hunker down. I don't know how long this will go on but it should be interesting. I've worked really hard over the years to make sure we had an emergency fund so we will be fine, but those funds don't replenish themselves so they'll take a lot of hard work to get back.

So from someone that worked in that business for years, someone whose wife still does, thank you all for your generosity and for helping. It is a very personal service and our relationships with the families we work with has meant so much over the years. Everyone works together and it's a win-win for everyone.
Hey, justanothermike--haven't heard from you in a while! I was just thinking back to when you and the Mrs started getting into Christmas. I said it was fun witnessing how much fun you were having, and you said please don't use the word witness!

I'm so sorry y'all are going through this. You're right that this kind of service business creates an intimate connection over the years. After I had my lumpectomy, my cleaning lady brought me food-- she makes a mean calabacita con pollo! All the best to you.
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Old 03-24-2020, 08:02 PM
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I agree with nelliebly that we'll all be largely housebound for several months. We don't know how bad it will get, but it will be bad for awhile. So ThelmaLou, I'm glad you're able and willing to pay your cleaning lady on an ongoing basis while she stays away.

We're planning to do the same with our cleaning lady, who's been cleaning our house for nearly a decade. It helps that my wife and I will be able to work from home for the duration, and since we won't lose a penny of income, affording to pay her will be no problem for us. We're among the lucky ones, and we know it.

Now that we've decided we're going to pay her to stay away, what's the best way to say that to her? (Answer not needed fast; her next visit would be a week from tomorrow. I would need to call her before then.) I'm not always the most diplomatic of people, but I want to be so in this case.
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Old 03-24-2020, 08:50 PM
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I said, "I can't have you come any more. I'm so sorry. I can't have anyone in the house except me. It's just not safe these days. I'm also not going out at all. I will keep paying you. I'm sure you understand." She agreed immediately. Then I got her account and routing numbers and went to my bank online and added her account as one that I can deposit into but not withdraw from.

I don't see where diplomacy is needed. We all know what's going on. It's not that you're "paying her to stay away." You're giving her paid leave like some people get who work for companies. There's no personal rejection going on here. After 10 years, she must know y'all.

Last edited by ThelmaLou; 03-24-2020 at 08:53 PM.
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Old 03-24-2020, 09:38 PM
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That's exactly what we did.
Ditto.
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Old 03-25-2020, 07:13 AM
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Just a suggestion, but a friend's elderly Mum, who usually has a cleaner, has instead been asking the cleaner to drop off groceries for her, on the doorstep, and is paying her for that instead.

If they're going to the shops anyway, and you want to support them while keeping safe yourself, that seems like a decent compromise to suggest.
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Old 03-25-2020, 07:24 AM
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Pay her as much as you can anyway but don't let her in your house. She needs the money.
This. Living with a little clutter and low-grade filth isn't going to kill you for a little while. But she needs the work and you can afford to pay her. If it really bugs you, work out the quo for this quid when the emergency is over. If you're both still around.
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Old 03-25-2020, 02:29 PM
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A widespread problem...

‘Plz Cancel Our Cleaning’: Virus Leads Many to Cast Aside Household Help
Quote:
...
Household help, often performed by undocumented immigrants like Ms. Zamorano, has become a fixture of American homes. In a thriving economy, even middle-class families have been able to hand off their mops, brooms and lawn mowers to low-paid workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and other countries. With reliable caregivers at home, many dual-income couples have raised children while building high-powered careers.

The coronavirus crisis is compelling many families to reassess. Concerns about the safety of an outsider entering their homes coupled with financial instability have prompted even the well-heeled to dispense with their help, and severance payments are a rarity.

Unlike their employers, undocumented workers cannot collect unemployment or benefit from a government bailout. They are part of the bustling informal economy, typically paid cash and off the books for the essential work they do. Without paid sick leave, remote work capability and access to jobs, they become uniquely vulnerable.

From New York to Los Angeles, families have been handling their help in different ways as they hunker down in their homes. Some have decided they cannot live without their help; a few feel committed to paying them while asking them not to come to work and still others have simply told workers to stop coming.
...

When Mayra Brito was hired in Austin, Texas, as a nanny and children’s Spanish teacher for two families — one middle-class, with four children, the other a wealthy couple who both work in technology — her employers had meticulously called each one of her references.
...

Ms. Brito had worked for one of the families for two years, the other for six months. In letting her go without confirming if or when she might have a job again, one set of parents said they were concerned about the health of their youngest child, a 9-month-old baby. The other said they wanted to keep the children’s aging grandparents who live with them safe.

“I understand their reasons,” Ms. Brito said, “But what I don’t understand is why they didn’t say, ‘We’re going to pay you at least half while you’re at home because we’re not letting you work.’”

She has since fielded requests from one of the families to do video calls because their children miss her. The parents did not offer to compensate her for the calls.
....
COVID-related articles are currently available at the New York Times without a subscription. I don't know if you're required to register in some way (I think you might be, judging from some disgruntled posts elsewhere on the board), but I think you then have the option to read without subscribing.
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Old 03-30-2020, 08:44 PM
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We have a two woman team visit us every second week, and have decided to pay them for at least the next two visits which they would have made, then re-evaluate, which takes us to mid April.

There's a meme going around with a caption "My cleaning lady notified me that she's now working from home, detailed instructions to follow"
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