These two words best describe how healthcare workers across the board feel about dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been almost a year now since January 20th, when the first case of COVID-19 was announced in the U.S. Ever since, healthcare workers have been put through a series of confusing, stressful, and dangerous set-ups to deal with the spread of this highly contagious virus.
From the beginning, the lack of information was overwhelming, with the government officials spreading mixed messages about the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If the confusion wasn’t enough, there was also the lack of access to PPE, which forced healthcare workers to wear the same mask for weeks at a time. Since the federal government refused to use the Defense Production Act to encourage the production of an adequate amount of PPE, healthcare workers had to take matters into their own hands and organize demonstrations to demand access to PPE.
And if all of this confusion and lack of protection on the job wasn’t enough, there is also the lack of access to regular testing, which also could protect not just healthcare workers, but their families, and other patients. Up until now, most healthcare workers can only get tested if they are symptomatic, which at that point almost defeats the point, knowing that people can spread the virus while asymptomatic. It wasn’t until last week that in California, the Department of Public Health put out new guidance requesting—not requiring—hospitals to test all employees on a weekly basis.
Now, we are looking at yet one more surge in cases that is overwhelming the healthcare system and the people making it run. There is no end in sight to this madness even with the vaccine coming out. For many healthcare workers the lack of scientific information on the production of the vaccine is highly concerning and not an indicator that things will go back to normal in any immediate sense.
It is obvious that under this economic system, which only cares about profits and not the lives of millions of people, the crisis has continued to deepen. It is also expected for people who are having to carry the burden of this pandemic to feel exhausted and terrified of the future. But what healthcare workers are also showing us through their organizing and demonstrating for their rights is that we don’t have to wait for those in power to make the right choice, we can demand it for ourselves.