PART 29. May 31, 2020. CORONAVIRUS. “The economy did not close down. It closed down for people who, frankly, had the luxury of staying home,” But not so for frontline workers!

 “All those essential workers have to get up every morning to put food on the shelves and go to the hospitals to provide healthcare under extraordinary circumstances,”

N.Y. will pay benefits for workers who died fighting the pandemic.

There are 62,344 cases of COVID-19 among healthcare personnel in the U.S., and 291 have died, new data from the CDC shows. (L)

to read PARTS 1-29 in chronological order, highlight and click on

Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic I have worried non-stop about the staff at Jersey City Medical Center. I was President and CEO of the Medical Center for seventeen years and saw first-hand, time after time, how JCMC’s courageous staff of “front-liners” always responded to the challenges of inconceivable emergencies.

JCMC is a regional, safety-net, level II trauma center, teaching hospital. Rapid Response is part of the hospital’s DNA. For example:

The first World Trade Center bombing was in 1993. As a nearby EMS service we sent all our ambulances through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan. They got caught in the gridlock, were useless, and we didn’t get them back for three days and had to rely on Mutual Assist to cover our home turf.

In the mid 1990’s we had a 4-alarm arson fire in the hospital. The extraordinary efforts of the JCFD saved the day and 400 patients as we were evacuating the smoke-filled hospital, hampered by archaic elevators and narrow, dark stairways.

And on September 11th 2001, the Medical Center was the lead New Jersey responder to the World Trade Center attacks, as thousands of evacuees were ferried across the Hudson River to Jersey City.

While I was not involved in Super Storm Sandy in 2015, the new Jersey City Medical Center opened in 2004 was hard hit even though it had been built to withstand the “100 year flood plain.” JCMC persevered while the hospitals in nearby Hoboken and North Bergen were totally evacuated.

So these “front-liners” deserve unique recognition as they stand in harms way to protect us during the most challenging of emergencies.

An article today about contact tracers in Paterson, New Jersey, reminded me that others are essential as well, even if working from home.

“States and cities around the country have begun with varying degrees of success to ramp up efforts to put contact tracing in place on a large scale. Last week, Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey said that his state would hire up to several thousand contact tracers to assist the 800 now working for local and county health departments.

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has announced that the state will build an army of up to 17,000 contact tracers. A political tangle between agencies has complicated efforts to expand tracing in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, but Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that he hoped to have 1,000 tracers in place by June.

Twenty miles to the west of New York City, Paterson, a poor, largely nonwhite city of about 150,000, has been tracing the virus at a level that could be the envy of larger cities. The team has been able to successfully investigate and trace about 90 percent of the more than 5,900 positive virus cases in Paterson, said the city’s top health officer, Dr. Paul Persaud…

As of Saturday, 306 Paterson residents have died, giving the city a death rate of 5.1 percent among those who have tested positive, compared to 7 percent statewide…

When the first cases began to appear in Paterson in mid-March, the Board of Health added two dozen employees who had been trained in communicable disease investigation last year to join their regular team of two disease detectives.

Since then, the full team, which the board calls its Covid-19 strike force, has grown to nearly 50 of the 60 board employees. Joining a dozen public health nurses are clerical staff, translators and health inspectors…

The contact-tracing team mostly works from their homes, making calls and entering their interview results into the state’s communicable disease reporting system. Once a week, they put on their masks and come to the city’s small public health headquarters to confer about the crush of cases.

During last week’s meeting, Andre Sayegh, the city’s mayor, handed out a sheet showing a line curve that tracked the city’s progress: From a high of about 260 daily positives on April 15, the city is now at about 50 to 70 cases per day, a level not seen since March….

After gathering the list of contacts, the case investigator then hands most cases off to a support staff of 20 other workers, who call each contact, tell them they have been exposed and ask them to self-quarantine for two weeks from the date of exposure.

The monitors do daily check-ins with all the contacts and the original patient during quarantine to see how they are feeling and monitor their compliance.

In Paterson, the work has gone on through nights and weekends, and the tracers said it can be tedious and emotionally grueling.

The goal may be to get information from each patient, but just as vital, the tracers said, is to develop enough trust so that their advice is followed.

“Usually, I start the call by saying, ‘I see you had a Covid test, can you tell me why you went?’” Ms. Bertolero said. “One woman said to me, ‘Because my brother died.’ I just had to stop for a bit and tell her how sorry I was.” (B)

ESSENTIAL WORKERS? Of course they are!

“…Frontline workers include, but are not limited to, healthcare workers, protective service workers (police and EMTs), cashiers in grocery and general merchandise stores, production and food processing workers, janitors and maintenance workers, agricultural workers, and truck drivers…

Healthcare workers represent 20 percent of all frontline workers. This includes the relatively high-paying, highly educated group comprised of healthcare practitioners and those in technical occupations (e.g. doctors, registered nurses and pharmacists – about three quarters of all healthcare workers) as well as health-support workers (e.g nursing assistants and home health aides – about one-quarter of this group).” (C)

“We insist that many making minimum wage or close are essential enough that we need them to keep working, but we haven’t found a way yet to properly compensate them for the risk they are taking on when they clock in.

Those essential workers who show up at jobs like grocery stores and fast food chains may only see small financial rewards, such as an extra $2 per hour in hazard pay during this pandemic. Employers are not required to offer it though, so only some workers have received the bump, which may only add up to an extra $80 or so weekly for a full-time worker anyway.

Meanwhile, the CARES Act is allowing for those on unemployment to receive an extra $600 per week in addition to their regular benefit. So a full-time grocery store worker who was taking home $700 every two weeks might now be making $860 with their hazard pay benefit, or perhaps a little more with an increase in hours. Compare with a person on unemployment who could be taking home a benefit of $600 every two weeks plus an extra $600 per week for a total of $1800 over that same pay period.

Some workers feel they are being treated unfairly for being expected to show up to these jobs only to take home less pay than those who are sitting safely at home making unemployment. In a way, the essential workers are trapped. They can’t get unemployment if they quit, but their jobs won’t fire them so long as they’re needed. What this means is that while essential businesses are booming, their employees are receiving none of the gains while taking on most of the risk.” (D)

“Frontline workers have always been the lifeblood of our city. Nurses, janitors, grocery clerks, childcare staff, bus and truck drivers. Every single day, crisis or no crisis, these are the essential workers in our city, our economy, and our society. The COVID-19 crisis does little to change that reality, it only brings into sharper relief these vital New Yorkers, who number more than one million workers amid today’s crisis, or 25 percent of the city’s workforce.

And yet, these same workers whom we trust with our health, our nourishment, our loved ones, and our lives are too often ignored, underpaid, and overworked. They very often lack healthcare, have to travel long distances to get to get to work, and struggle with childcare. Many in New York City are also undocumented, meaning they do all of the above while living in fear of deportation under the current federal administration.

If there is any collateral benefit to the COVID-19 tragedy, it is that the labor and contribution of those in our social service, cleaning, delivery and warehouse, grocery, healthcare, and public transit industries have finally received the attention and respect that they are due. How well we protect, compensate, and care for these workers, then, will be the ultimate litmus test for what we’ve learned from this global pandemic.” (E)

‘New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the federal government should pay bonuses to front line coronavirus workers.

According to The Hill, Cuomo made the comments during his daily coronavirus press conference, saying essential workers don’t have the “luxury of staying home.” As a result, Cuomo believes essential workers should receive a 50% bonus over what they’re currently being paid.

“We all say ‘boy they did a great job, the healthcare workers did a great job, the police — they’re heroes,’” Cuomo said. “Yes, they are, but you know? Thanks is nice but also recognition of their efforts and their sacrifice is also appropriate. They are the ones carrying us through this crisis and this crisis is not over.”…

“The economy did not close down. It closed down for people who, frankly, had the luxury of staying home,” Cuomo told reporters. “All those essential workers have to get up every morning to put food on the shelves and go to the hospitals to provide healthcare under extraordinary circumstances,” he added.” (F)

“Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would boost the pay of essential workers on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic by potentially tens of thousands of dollars.

As much as $25,000 in hazard pay would be afforded over a period of time to those deemed essential, including employees in health care, drug stores, grocery stores, sanitation workers, truck drivers, transportation workers and all federal employees with frontline positions, such as Postal Service workers.

“Not all heroes wear capes,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “For these Americans, working from home is not an option. Social distancing is not an option.”

The raise would be equivalent to $13 per hour and would apply retroactively from the start of the health crisis emergency on January 27 until the end of the year, Schumer said.

Health care workers also could receive a one-time premium of up to $15,000 as part of a program to recruit and retain certain medical employees in fields experiencing shortages. The benefits would be applied retroactively for those already working on the frontlines and to the families of health care workers who’ve died as a result of coronavirus.

“We are asking these workers to take on great risk. They should be compensated for it,” Schumer said. “These Americans are the true heroes of this pandemic, and we need to make sure they are taken care of. They are there for us, so we must be there for them.””  (G)

Heroes among us: Cincinnati essential workers who are battling on the frontlines” (H)

https://www.cincinnati.com/in-depth/news/2020/05/05/essential-workers-cincinnati-frontline-heroes/3028102001/

From doctors to delivery workers, AAPIs make up the backbone of many critical industries amid the coronavirus pandemic. (I)

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/aapi-frontline

“Marching into the White House briefing room for a hastily called announcement, Mr. Trump declared places of worship “essential” operations that should hold services in person this weekend regardless of state quarantine orders stemming from the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 96,000 people in the United States.

“The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now for this weekend,” Mr. Trump said, reading from a prepared text before leaving after just about a minute without taking questions. “If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less.”” (J)

“New York’s state and local governments will provide death benefits to the families of essential workers who died while fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday.

“We want to make sure that we remember them, and we thank our heroes of today, and they’re all around us,” Mr. Cuomo said at his daily news briefing.

As people paused on Memorial Day to remember military personnel who died while serving the country, Mr. Cuomo linked the fallen service members to New York’s front-line workers, whom he called today’s “heroes.”

The public employees whose families would receive death benefits included health workers, police officers, firefighters, transit workers and emergency medical workers, the governor said. The benefits would be paid out of state and local pension funds.” (K)

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