As the United States struggles to limit the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19), the number of health care workers ordered to self-quarantine because of potential exposure to an infected patient is increasing at an exponential pace.
Healthcare workers put their health on the front lines of caring for patients with confirmed or possible infection with the coronavirus disease and therefore have an increased risk of exposure to the virus. With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rising day by day, a quarantine response of this size would quickly leave the healthcare system overwhelmed, short-staffed and an emotional wreck.
As of today, women in the U.S. hold 76 percent of health-care jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In nursing, where workers are on the front lines of patient interactions, women make up more than 85 percent of the workforce.
“Someone has to get the job done,” said one healthcare worker who works in the Saginaw, Michigan area, who asked not to be named to protect her privacy and employment.
“Working while this virus is spreading rapidly is scary, but someone has to take care of these people. I feel that if you are exposed to it you shouldn’t come to work because there’s a big chance that they will get it. The elderly have a 50/50 chance they can or cannot beat it due to all their other health problems.
“I work two jobs as of now, and both are in a facility with the elderly who are being quarantined. One of my residents is being tested right now to see if they have the virus, and I had no clue. So now, I can’t go around anyone right now until I get those results to see if my results are positive or negative,” they said.
In addition to women being the majority of health-care workers in the U.S., women arethe primary caretakers in their families. This means that many women in health care are balancing a strict work life and home life.
Jada Moore expressed her concerns working during the pandemic as well as being a mother.
“It’s scary at times, but I have to provide for my family because I have no choice. I’m blessed and thankful to be working while others are out of a job right now. I don’t mind taking care of these patients because if I don’t, who will? We are healthcare workers for a reason
“Before going home, I make sure to take off my work clothes before entering into my house. Helping these patients fight off the virus is important, but protecting my daughter and family is my priority,” she said.
Health care worker Tita Carreras shared her thoughts about working and being prepared.
“Out of all of the years I have been a health care worker, I’ve never had to deal with something like this. You have to protect yourself at all cost. Before I enter my house, I strip out of my scrubs at the door and immediately throw them in the washer. Of course, it is scary. I am pretty sure no one else would have even imagined working the frontline through all of this. But we are certified to do this, and we can’t back down now,” she said.