Health Care and COVID-19 in New Jersey & New York
Brooke Valentin, Contributing Writer
Health care workers are in higher demand than ever before due to the sudden and wide spreading Coronavirus pandemic. They are on the front lines daily fighting against the virus and putting their own health at risk to help others. In the United States there are currently over 579,000 cases and nearly 22,300 deaths.
New York was the first state to get hit hard, with numbers rapidly rising to around 242,786 cases and 13,869 deaths. New Jersey follows as the second state with the largest number of cases, currently at around 85,301 confirmed cases and over 4,202 deaths. These numbers are according to The New York Times Coronavirus Tracker, as of this morning.
Roseanne Schottenfeld, a surgical nurse at JFK Medical Center in Edison, NJ, said, “Working on the front lines is terrifying, not only because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because we are not being properly protected.” Schottenfeld said every floor in the hospital is a COVID-19 floor. “We have all been deployed to floor work that we have no experience in. All our standards are null and void. There has been no leadership in protecting healthcare workers properly.”
Schottenfeld repeated a dark sentiment from one of her coworkers, saying, “This is like Hitler and the Nazis when after all was said and done and they asked all those German soldiers, ‘why did you do that?’ And they said ‘because they ordered us to.’ That’s exactly how we feel as nurses. They’re making us do things not only against our moral compass, but against all standards and regulations.”
Schottenfeld encourages other healthcare workers in her situation to be an advocate for themselves even if there are consequences.
Michelle Florczack, a Patient Care Technician in the oncology department at JFK Medical Center, says she has never seen anything like this in her 34 years in the field. “I have unknowingly taken care of patients with COVID-19. These were patients that we were told were negative but came back positive. While treating these patients I had no special personal protection equipment on,” Florczack said. “Four of our staff members ended up getting sick and tested positive and now they are not able to work.”
The current false negative rate for COVID-19 tests may be as high as 30% according to one article from Healthline.com.
Florczak, a mother of six, worries about her family. “I’m trying not to bring this home to my family. I don’t bring my clothes in the house, I change in my car, I leave my shoes and come right into the house and shower right away.” Florczack said.
Nurses are not being protected during this crisis and are finding themselves having to make tough decisions. “I have to work to take care of my family, and it’s so frustrating that we aren’t being properly protected. I will continue to fight for myself and my coworkers. We are on the front lines, we are the ones who need the most protection.” Florcazck urged.
Latisha Miller, a paramedic for the fire department of New York City says, “Working on the front lines is scary because we don’t know if we’re going to contract the disease and bring it home to our family. I see a lot of death and hear it over the radio constantly.” Every single call Miller has is a COVID-19 call.
“Although it’s scary working on the frontlines it’s also gratifying being able to help those in need. Whether it’s comforting them in their last moments or just being there.” Miller said.
Carmen Rosasa, Miller’s coworker, said, “I feel good knowing I am doing something for people in need. I also feel safe. New York has put in a lot of protocols to keep health workers safe during this pandemic.”
“We wear gowns over our uniforms, we wear masks, gloves, head coverings and slips over our shoes. We are completely covered. I think my biggest fear is that my Personal Protection Equipment will break or tear.” Miller said.
It is unclear when life will return to normal. New Jersey and New York’s lockdown could last into the summer. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on hundreds of thousands of people’s lives in New York, and have thrown health care workers into a terrifying and unknown frontier.