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Gov. Newsom signs bills to protect essential workers during COVID-19 pandemic

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two bills Thursday to protect essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Josh Haskell for ABC7 #los-angeles-ca

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed two bills Thursday to protect essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SB 1159 will make it easier for essential workers who test positive to have access to medical care and wage replacement benefits.

AB 685 forces employers to be more transparent when someone tests positive for COVID-19 in the workplace, requiring them to report potentially exposed employees within 1 business day.

Those are welcome measures to frontline workers like Albertsons grocery clerk Sharon Hechler, who has worked in Arcadia for 47 years.

“We’re just trying to stay alive,” Hechler said. “I thought the worst thing I’ve been through in my career was the 2003/2004 grocery industry strike, but no, this is much more difficult. We are just praying every day that we get through this.”

State officials say the new bills will help enforcement of workplace violations that can threaten the health of workers.

“Enforcement is critical to turning laws into reality so these bills also allow Cal OSHA to move in an expedited fashion to address serious violations and to prevent an imminent hazard to employees to being exposed to COVID-19,” said Julie Su, secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency.

“We are providing $62.5 million of a public awareness campaign so workers can fundamentally know what the rules and regulations are so that they can raise their voice,” Newsom said.

City mourns after employee death

The city of Los Angeles this week offered a reminder of just how dangerous COVID-19 remains even as the area sees a decline in case rates.

The city is mourning the loss of City Parks Director Daniel Salazar, who recently passed away from COVID-19.

His life-long friend Ramon Cerrillos is remembering Salazar as a fun-loving and hard worker who cared about everyone he met, especially the youth he mentored in the San Fernando Valley.

“By playing, they forget their environment for an hour or two,” said Cerrillos.

“They were like everybody else. He really enjoyed that and took that to heart. To make sure that kids signed up even if some of them couldn’t pay, you know, $10 doesn’t seem like a big amount, even if some of them couldn’t pay, he would take it out of his pocket and pay for them. He cared for the community he worked in and he worked hard to try and get them things that maybe as a youth, he didn’t have.”