Alameda County will pay people with COVID-19 to stay home and isolate

Alameda County is going to pay people with COVID-19 to stay home and isolate themselves. 

The initiative is aimed at those who would not be able to miss work otherwise. 

Approved unanimously by Alameda County supervisors, the pilot program will provide a stipend of $1,250.

"People have to do what they have to do to survive," said Erika Simpson-Akpawu, chief operations officer at West Oakland Health, which sees many patients ineligible for unemployment, stimulus money or sick leave.  

A total of 400 tests are given daily at the clinic, and while some people are symptomatic, others are exposed and unsure.

All should be staying home from their jobs, to curb community spread. 

"But there are many employers who are not allowing employees to come back to work without that negative test," said Simpson-Akpawu.

Test results can be slow in coming, and if positive, require even more time off work.  

"But they're not getting any income, so how do they provide food for their families, pay their rent, pay their other bills?" said Simpson-Akpawu. 

Under the stipend program, a handful of clinics in Alameda County will refer people in need. 

Modeled after a similar program in San Francisco, it's based on two weeks pay at about $16 per hour, amounting to about $1,250.

The stipend is aimed at essential employees, day laborers, undocumented workers, and those at businesses too small to provide benefits. 

Because rents are high, living spaces are often shared, which complicates quarantine even more.   

"You may have people living in a four-bedroom house, but each bedroom may have a family living in it, and that's due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area," said Simpson-Akpawu. 

Alameda County has set aside $10 million for the stipends, which it will try to recover from state and federal funds. 

Initially, it is enough to assist about 7,500 people.  

"There are a lot of people who are falling through the gaps, and scrambling to figure out what are they going to do, what can they do?", acknowledged Simpson-Akpawu.  

 A start date and criteria for the stipends are still being developed. 

Currently, Alameda County has just over 12,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 193 deaths.