CWA Local 1101 members at Arms Acres and Conifer Park rehabiliation facilities in upstate New York were on the front line when COVID-19 hit. Working with vulnerable populations in a high-risk situation, things were dangerous and tense in the early days of the pandemic. Procedures were changing daily as managers, workers and union representatives tried to figure out how to keep everyone safe. We asked some of our members what it was like to be there during the onset of the pandemic, and how things are now.
Peggy Civitano is a Registered Nurse at Arms Acres.
"The unit where I work is where they were putting the COVID patients in the beginning. It was scary because it was unknown. The most challenging thing was trying to stay safe and make sure the patients and my co-workers were safe. I don’t want to get COVID. But I’m a nurse. How do I not take care of people? We do what we need to do. In the beginning I was doing temperature checks twice a day for everyone the facility. I was in contact with everyone. The staff who were there stuck together and the Director of Nursing made sure we had what we needed to take care of the patients. Things are more back to normal now. We’re approved to test at the facility. And there’s more known about the disease. It's been isolating, but also built comraderie with my co-workers."
Michelle Davis is a milieu counselor in the admissions office at Arms Acres in Carmel, New York.
"I’m the first contact for everyone who comes through the facility. It’s a very dangerous position to be in. They’re very agitated. I have a lot of compassion for these folks and I take my job very seriously. I want to make sure it’s a safe place, for me as well as the patients. Working during COVID, initially I was concerned. I took a week off. Then I went back to my faith in God. I’m here as an essential worker. He is going to protect me and not put me the line of fire. I haven’t contracted COVID through anyone coming through. I’ve dealt with at least 3 individuals who were positive who I had to walk to quarantine. I made sure I had all the necessary equipment to protect myself."
Tammy Horan is a case manager and social worker at Conifer Park.
"People were worried about getting COVID and no-one knew what it would be like. In the beginning there were a lot of changes really fast. They were figuring out how to take precautions. The patients were worried, the staff was worried. When I left work, I wouldn’t go see my family because I was concerned about the COVID cases here. For me personally the hardest part was the isolation. I didn’t go around my parents or anyone at all. I would come in, try to do my best, keep 6 feet from people, and wash my hands a lot. I did get COVID. I was out a little over two weeks.
We don’t have any cases at Conifer right now. A lot of people are still on furlough. I think it’s going to be a slow climb. We only have one floor operating at the moment. I miss our team. And the workload is intense. I’m dedicated to the job I do. I’m dedicated to agency I serve. I know everyone was struggling in the beginning. I think they’re trying to make sure everything is good now. I chose this career. This is a vulnerable population and they need us."