Custodial and sanitation workers find themselves in the frontlines in a battle to stop the spread of COVID-19.
While there were ignored or taken for granted in the past, they are now essential as they work tirelessly to keep essential buildings free of infection.
However, the anxiety of working on the front lines rise as they are asked to thoroughly disinfect places without any kind of personal protective equipment.
Fasika Getahun, a custodian at Harborview Medical Center said returning home does not bring the same comfort and excitement as it did before the outbreak.
“I am worried. I have family, my children in my home,” she worries, “There’s no masks or anything for us. How are we expected to clean?”
Getahun and 50 members of the cleaning staff continue to work without masks or any protective gear and conduct their daily morning meetings in a small room.
The Medina Middle School head custodian Derrick Fields said, “We’re important. We know it. I think after this dies down, the rest of the world will know, too.”
Pittsburgh Sanitation workers have refused to report for work until they are provided with enough protective equipment.
Pittsburgh Environmental Services employee Tom Foley said, “I say if we don’t pick up your rubbish, what’re you going to do with it?”
AFSCME President Lee Saunders said part of the blame goes to President Donald Trump, who delayed the use of Defense Production Act to accelerate manufacturing of protective gears, which could have been provided early on.
“They deserve support. They deserve respect. They deserve leadership from the White House that is as competent and compassionate as they are,” he said.
“They deserve gloves and gowns, masks and swabs, respirators and ventilators so they can get the job done safely right now when we need that professionalism and expertise more than ever.”