CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio nursing home and long-term care workers held a July 20 protest on Shaker Square in Cleveland about COVID-19 safety concerns.
The protest was one of 25 protests taking place nationwide in connection with Service Employees International Union chapter 1199 and Strike for Black Lives, a national day of action demanding that corporations and government take action to confront the systemic racism in our society, economy, and workplaces.
Samara Knight, Community Outreach Manager with SEIU District 1199, told News 5 Ohio nursing home workers simply do not have enough personal protective equipment to stay safe from COVID-19, and they care for the elderly statewide.
Knight said there are also COVID-19 safety issues when it comes to sick pay and staffing levels.
“They’re wearing the same gown in one hallway, they’re wearing the same N-95 mask and they change it out sometimes once a week," Knight said.
“That’s just not sanitary and these are essential workers.”
“They are right now denying sick time, or they’re trying to. And if you contract COVID-19 and if you’re asymptomatic, now they’re saying you can come to work, which is crazy.”
“These folks deserve hazardous pay, they put their lives at risk every day for low minimum wage jobs and it’s not right."
Nationwide, workers including fast-food, nursing home and janitorial workers were joined by thousands more who walked off their jobs for eight minutes, 46 seconds to remember George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain.
Ohio Department of Health statistics indicates 3,987 Ohio long-term care workers have contracted COVID-19 from April 15 to July 17.
Chaundra Kidd, who's been a Cleveland nursing home worker for 10 years, told News 5 Ohio needs to do more in ensuring nursing home and long-term care facility owners take all the needed COVID-19 safety steps.
“Truthfully I’m afraid, I don’t know if I’m going to go home with this," Kidd said.
“It’s tough. it’s hard, it’s hard day-by-day.”
“When you go into work and you only have three masks and you work 5 days a week, and they want you to continue to wear those masks over and over."
“Or the fact that there is not enough hand sanitizer or the fact that there’s not enough gloves.”
“And day by day I have a grandchild, I have to go home, I’m scared to hold my grandchild, I’m scared that I might give her something.”
Rep. Juanita Brent, District 12 (D-Cleveland), said she is looking to see if the state can do more to hold nursing homeowners accountable.
“I mentioned this to the Governor, I mentioned this to the speaker of the house, as well as our senate president, this has to be our priority of taking care of these people who are taking care of the public," Brent said.
“We are in the middle of a pandemic, why are on recess right now when people are hurting.”
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's office responded to the concerns and protest with the following statement:
"We’ve worked to ensure that nursing home workers have the material they need. If they can’t access the PPE they need, they need to talk to their employer, as their employer can contact their local health department or their local EMA.
We have worked to create a system between nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care providers to assist with needed supplies."