The COVID-19 Chokehold

From a Frontline Health Care Worker in North Jersey

In early March 2020, workers of a rehabilitation center in Northern Jersey were told that their facility was being repurposed by the federal government to house the excess COVID-19 patients overrunning the local hospital. Part time workers were let go, and many full-time workers were relocated to another rehab center. Days upon arriving at the new facility, a worker described being alarmed to discover 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19. No one informed the relocated workers that they were being sent to an infected facility.

In early March the pandemic existed primarily in China, with 80,000 cases, and only a few hundred in the United States. In just one month, 5 confirmed cases grew to 21 confirmed and 9 pending, and now the United States (as of early April 2020) is the global leader with over 430,000 cases. More than half of key staff members such as nurses and CNAs (certified nursing assistants) are calling out sick to avoid the risk of infection. Other non-qualified workers are picking up the slack where nurses and CNAs usually work. An 8-hour crash course (usually a several month course) for temporary CNA certifications is being offered to manage the lack of key staff.

While a mild cough should be enough reason to stay home, workers cannot get tested for COVID-19 unless they have a fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These conditions are leaving health care workers trapped between their commitment to aid the sick and protecting their health. If all the workers get tested and they figure out who needs to be quarantined, then who will be left care for the elderly and the sick? Therefore, testing the entire staff is not in the best interests of the company. Our frontline workers are in a chokehold.

Featured image credit: rottonara / pixabay