EL PASO, Texas -- Quarantine and lose pay, or work to put food on the table?
It's a scenario many El Pasoans may find themselves in during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One El Paso woman's interaction with her husband sheds light on a likely factor contributing to the sharp increase of coronavirus cases in the community.
Michelle Russ tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of October.
But her husband initially refused to inform his employer about his exposure to the highly contagious virus.
"I know he felt this underlying fear that, 'They're gonna send me home. I'm not gonna get paid,'" Russ said in a video interview with ABC-7 from her home. "And yeah, we definitely had words. He did not want to say anything. And I told him, 'We cannot be part of the problem. We have to be part of the solution. And you have to tell them.'"
The City of El Paso has said about 60 percent of the cases come from retail and restaurants.
Many employees in those industries are deemed essential and are also hourly.
Workforce Solutions Borderplex in El Paso is hearing from employees and employers in situations similar to Russ'.
"Do not report to work," said CEO Leila Melendez. "If your employer takes an action, file for unemployment and let that process work itself through. And yes, if you cannot work because you are Covid-positive, you absolutely have access to unemployment benefits."
"My ultimate message to both of them is to tread cautiously," Melendez added. "Be mindful about what they're trying to do. Don't make a decision in a rush. Don't panic. Listen to each other."
Russ' husband told his employer about his exposure. She said his employer will pay him his base salary while he quarantines. While they both abstain from work, Russ said loved ones have brought her food and other items.
"It's hard to ask for help. It's hard for me to ask for help," Russ said. "But I think we need to come together as a community and take care of each other. Because I don't feel like anyone else is going to take care of us."
Melendez urges employees and employers to visit the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division website to find credible information about protections during the pandemic.
The CDC states anyone who has or thinks they have Covid-19 or has been exposed should stay home and isolate even if they are asymptomatic.