By Andrea Lawful Sanders
It has been said for weeks in Pennsylvania that anyone not considered an essential worker should stay home. In the midst of all the updates from the Governor, Mayor and other health officials, the news changed depending on what they were discovering each week. When this all began, we were told that we did not need masks and that it was from human contact. We were also told that the virus was not airborne, so we didn’t have to worry unless we were already sick with it. If we did have the virus, the masks would be needed to keep the germs from spreading to other people.
The people who are on the front lines most are the nurses, doctors and ambulance workers. We also have to consider the people who are intaking patients in hospitals and folks like the sanitation workers and the secretaries. In the last seven days alone, we have seen story after story about close relatives, mostly the elderly, succumbing to this disease.
“Nurses are close to having a nervous breakdown because of the stress!” “Genevieve*,” another nurse at a Philadelphia hospital, said. “A lot of people who died didn’t need to. There were no N95 masks on our floor, and by the time we got permission to get it, it was almost too late. One of my friends quit her job as a nurse, because she just did not think it was worth the risk to her family.”
Added to the stress for nurses and doctors are the amount of patients who are dying alone. The body count is climbing, and that alone will stress out anyone in these kinds of circumstances.
Dr. Rachel Levine, who is the health secretary for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, states that there is equipment being sent to hospitals, and cautions people to stay home for the safety of the essential workers.
Gov. Tom Wolf has recently put out an order that simply states we are no longer allowed to be in any essential places without wearing a mask.
Dr. Levine also cautioned that we are just starting to experience a surge of the virus in Pennsylvania, and if we follow the guidelines set forth for us as citizens, we will begin to see a downward spiral in the amount of positive cases and deaths.
“Crystal*,” who is an essential worker for another hospital, sent messages to me that although the staff needed proper medical gowns, that this particular hospital is making them wear trash bags because they have no PPE equipment to give to them. It begs the question, where is all this equipment that’s supposed to be in the hands of the essential workers going?
The rank-and-file of the Philadelphia Police Department, is wondering the same thing.
“Jeniece*” is a decorated police officer who says they have had to use disposable masks over and over again, even after having contact with the public. She claims that the Fraternal Order of Police sent equipment to every police station, but for some reason, it is not getting into the hands of the rank-and-file especially those who have to deal with the public. Calls were made to the lieutenant in charge of supplies at the 22nd District in an effort to locate the equipment the police officers say they’re not getting.
In a statement obtained from the police commissioner’s office, it clearly states that the department is working to generate masks as needed, but are asking officers to utilize the ones they may be able to acquire elsewhere. The transparency from the rank and file was refreshing.
When I interviewed several postal workers, a disturbing trend was revealed. It seems the postal service has more than enough masks and personal protection equipment for their postal workers and so the problem is not that they are not being supplied.
What I learned while interviewing three postal workers, one of whom was named Miguel, is that the younger employees are not frightened by this disease and refuse to wear their masks. What I was also told is that the postal service provides the equipment, but they are not mandating that it should be worn.
This leads to concern for the population of workers with underlying conditions. The workers are requesting that the post office mandate that all employees must wear the equipment while working. This is a moot point now, since Gov. Wolf took that all out of their hands with the mandatory mask requirement.
The bottom line is this: the suffering and the death toll from the coronavirus continues to rise each and every day, and you would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not been affected or impacted by this particular virus. It behooves us, then, to continue working with each other and supporting one another where ever possible by following the guidelines, sharing resources, and most importantly, praying. We could all use a little bit of that right now.
(* Names have been changed throughout this article to protect workers who wished to remain anonymous.)
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