Interview with AA from Metropolitan, NY

 

AA has been a lifelong friend of my mother’s. She has worked many years as a direct care nurse, but more recently is working in the office of a Home Care Agency in Metropolitan New York (name and exact location is being withheld for privacy reasons).  

“I think it’s more about the gloves than the mask.  Our staff got it from contact, being in the same room touching the same things.”  This is the hello I get upon answering the phone. No pleasantries, no check-ins, just an onslaught of information to try and protect the person on the other end.  

AA works in an office with over 500 women.  She tells me they have only 6 bathroom stalls for all 500 women to share. As the agency provides nursing care, they are deemed essential and so the company keeps running.  But they did not cut back on how many employees are in the office space at one time. Still over 300 people are sitting in one room at the same time. Fifty percent of the workforce was not told to work from home. The staff had to continue hands on training with new employees.  They were not allowed to wear masks. In fact, masks were not distributed until this week, and each aide was only given one to reuse over and over again. Yet the office staff continues to get sick. And those that have spoken out have been fired.

What surprised me (Ashley) the most was the discovery that those nurses and aides in the field are remaining healthier than those in the office.  Those in direct contact with patients are given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while those in the office are not. This has led to multiple office staff being tested positive for COVID-19.  Shortly after AA had cleaned the desk space of someone who had tested positive, she herself came down with symptoms. She experienced a temperature of 102, couldn’t take any light as it hurt her eyes, a headache that didn’t allow her to lift her head, muscle aches, lost her sense of taste and smell, nasal congestion, but did not have a cough. While these are the symptoms that a lot of individuals are getting, and the fact that she did come in contact with COVID-19, her test came back negative.  After about 4 days she was able to leave her room. This may have been a close call for her or she could have been experiencing a mild case. With the possible inaccuracy of the tests we will not know.

But what we do know, is that her agency only had 6 hospice cases prior to COVID-19.  They now have 21. That means in just a few short weeks 15 patients have been tested positive for COVID-19 and have been placed directly on hospice care.  Those working in the field with the patients show up in full hazmat suits, and still younger people (even those in direct patient care) are not practicing safe PPE use as they are not comprehending the full extent of what this virus is doing to the human race.  

Our jobs, our neighbors, our loved ones can either be following the requested mandates or they could be ignoring them and putting millions at risk. So what is JL’s biggest take always?

 

1. What do you feel you have lost through COVID-19?

AA: A sense of security.  She does not feel that we have gotten the entire picture yet, the entire scope of what is happening.  When things started she felt like some of the media was blowing it out of proportion, and that it wouldn’t affect us the way it has.  But seeing the virus in action and how her co-workers and clients are being impacted makes her feel like we do not have enough or have the right information at this time.  

 

2. What do you feel you have gained through COVID-19?

AA: “From this….?” (there was literal silence)

 

3. What do you feel you have learned through all of this?

AA: “Stay at home! It is going to get worse before it gets better.  I believe the peak will be in 2 weeks (4/20/2020).”

 

Ashley Moser

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counselor 

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