COLUMBIA — Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, some workers are forced to choose: go to work sick or stay home with no pay.

Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services reported a record-breaking 2,776 active COVID-19 cases on Wednesday.

Hayley Hulett works as a part-time housekeeper at the Candlewood Suites hotel. She tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday and has been at home in quarantine since, with no pay.

"I'm still missing out on like a whole 'nother like $300 I could be making," Hulett said. 

She claims she was exposed to COVID-19 at her job, which pays her $13/hr. Hulett said she now works nearly full-time, after other employees quit.

Out of all American workers, 22% do not have paid sick leave benefits, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"I can't even, you know, take off work because I'm sick and get paid for it," Hulett said. "That doesn't make sense."

Hulett could not afford her home, so she moved out. Right now, she and her 2-year-old are living in a Boonville hotel, the only area hotel she could afford, for the rest of month.

The past three days, they have been surviving off of ramen noodle cups from the Dollar Store.

Hulett applied for Section 8 housing, food stamps and help from area organizations but has not heard anything back yet.

"Maybe for the rest of this month, [we'll have] the roof over our head, maybe some food, but I'm not so sure about next month," Hulett said.

KOMU 8 reached out to Candlewood Suites regarding sick leave benefits for part-time workers. A spokesperson said the benefits are not financially feasible and there is no way the hotel would stay in business if it offered paid sick leave.

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KOMU 8 Digital Producer & Reporter

KOMU 8 Digital Producer & Reporter. I'm a current senior at the University of Missouri, studying Convergence Journalism - Emerging Media. Reach me at, or on Twitter @byalexfulton.

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