As of March 21, at least 73 nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other elder care centers across 22 states reported COVID-19 cases, with at least 55 coronavirus deaths, according to The Washington Post’s review of reports from states, local media and nursing homes. But what does the rise in numbers mean for the workers who care for these elders and who earn less than $30,000 a year?
“You may have just that one patient with the coronavirus that comes into your facility and you don’t know. I can go to work today, wind up feeding them and then find out two hours later, oh, they have that virus. And I’ve already been exposed,” Lodi, California, resident Verna White told the New York Times in a video published on March 31. “Nurses assistants and aides, we’re the closest ones. We’re the front line,” White adds, in the video titled “Low Pay, High Risk: Nursing Home Workers Confront Coronavirus Dilemma.”
To document the dangerous and difficult work that nurses assistants are tasked with during the crises, The Times spoke with nursing home workers in Northern California who shared a bleak story about what they are up against. Snapshots from the video are below.
“Can’t do it. It’s impossible,” White confirmed.
“We’re rationing, right now, protective gear,” Jeffrey Ravago from Vallejo explained. Ravago, who suffers from asthma and lives with a cancer-survivor continued, “But what happens if we run out? It scares me.”
Cynthia Yee, from San Francisco said, “They gave us the N95 mask. They told us to maintain it. If the elastic comes off by accident from it, staple it and reuse it.”
“I have asthma, so if I got COVID it would affect my lungs,” Ravago said. “And how am I going to pay my bills? Because it’s paycheck to paycheck what I’m doing.”
Watch the complete video below, courtesy of The New York Times: