Since California’s controversial anti-freelancer bill was signed into law in September 2019, one (not unpredictable) result has been staffing shortages in the healthcare industry, particularly in fields generally staffed by contractors or locum tenens providers: physicians assistants, nurses, nurse anesthetists, and respiratory therapists.

As the Wuhan coronavirus made its way into California, advocates who’ve been pushing to fix/amend/repeal AB5 let Asm. Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s author, know in no uncertain terms that unless enforcement of AB5 was suspended until the crisis passed Californians who needed care from these professionals would die.

Gonzalez didn’t listen, and people are dying.

The populations most at risk in the current crisis – the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and people living in poverty – are the very populations harmed by the lack of access to healthcare in the rural areas of California’s Coachella Valley. Cara, a nurse who practices on a contract basis in the area’s rural health clinics said in an interview with CommDigiNews that since AB5’s implementation many rural clinics in the area have closed, unable to meet the financial burden of transitioning contracted nurses, PA’s, and more to W-2 employees. One of the clinics that was shuttered primarily served the area’s homeless population.

The Coachella Valley was one of the first areas in California to be hit by coronavirus. As of March 10, the date the article Cara was quoted in published, there were 10 cases of coronavirus in the Coachella Valley. As of Friday, March 20, 28 Coachella Valley residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and four have died.

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