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Paid sick leave could slow spread of coronavirus

The Federal Reserve did what it could Tuesday to offset the growing economic impact of the coronavirus by announcing a supersize reduction in its benchmark interest rate — the first time the Fed has acted between its regularly scheduled meetings since the financial crisis in 2008.

But the Fed is ill equipped to limit the effect of a global pandemic alone. Lower interest rates may eventually soothe financial markets and help to hold down borrowing costs, but the Fed can’t speed the reopening of Chinese factories or reverse Facebook’s decision to cancel an annual developers conference that last year brought 5,000 visitors to San Francisco.

(…) At this point, the crisis also demands unorthodox solutions. To restrict the spread of the coronavirus, the government needs to put limits on commerce. The best way to protect people, and the economy, is to limit economic activity. That is an unfortunate but inescapable truth. Public health officials will need to impose quarantines, businesses will need to cancel meetings. And most of all, the problem now and going forward is making sure that sick workers stay home. That means not forcing employees to choose between penury and working while coughing.

(…)  If the federal government fails to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and the economic outlook darkens, a broad-based stimulus may well become necessary. But targeted policies — like sick days — are likely to remain the most effective form of response.

— The New York Times