Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, front line medical workers have been at an increased risk of contracting the coronavirus. However, medical workers are not the only ones facing an increased risk of exposure. Today we share two stories of essential workers who contracted the COVID-19 (coronavirus) because they had to go to work. For them, the hardest part was quarantining and being separated from their families!
Daniel Reid, Chief Building Engineer at a CPS high school
Mr. Reid, who is the Chief Building Engineer for a local high school, caught COVID-19 from his assistant, who traveled out of state to attend a wedding. The assistant failed to quarantine for 14 days after returning from a COVID hot spot, as suggested by Mayor Lightfoot and other medical professionals. A friend notified the assistant that one of the travelers who accompanied them tested positive for the virus. It was at that time, the assistant was tested and Daniel was advised to get a test as a precaution.
After a few days, Daniel Reid received his positive test results. He was upset and furious at the thought of testing positive for the coronavirus. Before his diagnosis, Mr. Reid had taken every precaution suggested by the medical professionals. He had various thoughts about the coronavirus before he caught it. “It hits differently once it actually happens to you,” he stated.
The symptoms came about gradually, starting with a dry cough. Daniel eventually experienced an earache, problems breathing, gasping for air after walking a short distance. Mr. Reid also felt extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. He equated the COVID-19 virus to a “super flu” because of the way it attacks your entire body. Upon learning of his positive coronavirus diagnosis, his family was understandably in shock and extremely worried about his wellbeing. During Daniel’s quarantine, he had daily check-ins and phone calls with family members. Since he could not work or help around the house, more pressure was placed on other family members to pick-up the slack. His diagnosis was affecting his entire family. For Daniel, the worse part of this ordeal was quarantining alone and having to socially distance himself from his newborn child.
His employer was incredibly supportive and insisted on the 14-day quarantine. However, even though he was at home recovering, he was still required to oversee a large construction project while battling and recovering from the coronavirus. Once he returned to work, he was even more vigilant about the safety protocols, including washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing, and using hand sanitizer.
Ryan Golden, Janitor/Maintenance Department for a Private Property Management Company.
An essential worker in the maintenance department for a private property management company, Ryan Golden, caught COVID-19 but is not sure how. Mr. Golden is a janitor for a multi-building complex for low-income residents. One day as Ryan was working his shift, he noticed that he could not smell or taste anything and immediately notified his boss. His boss suggested that he leave immediately and get tested for COVID-19 because of his symptoms. Ryan made an appointment to take the test and waited patiently for the results. He contacted the testing site after not hearing back from them for a couple of days. The testing site informed him that his results were lost and he needed to retest soon. He was upset about losing his test, considering this test was so uncomfortable as they swabbed his nose two times. It was daunting to know that he had to retake this test, so he researched and found a facility that could swab his mouth instead. The results came back positive, and he proceeded to quarantine alone from his family.
Ryan’s family left their home to stay with relatives for at least three weeks until he recovered and could test again. He admits the most challenging part was being away from his children. He also said the lack of taste and smell became frustrating after a while. His employer was incredibly supportive and checked on him often by phone. He eventually tested negative and was able to go back to work again. Once we returned to work, he continued to follow the safety protocols, including washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing, and using hand sanitizer. As a result of the COVID-19 safety protocols, the janitorial team enters the residential units for emergencies only(including electrical, plumbing, etc.). The maintenance team continues to clean all the common areas for the residents excessively. Mr. Golden is not sure how he contracted the virus but notes 3 out of 5 members of his team have tested positive. He stated that it took him at least two months before he was back on track physically.
In addition to medical workers, other essential workers risk increased exposure to the coronavirus. They do not have the luxury of working from home. For many, the choice is risk their health or risk losing their employment.
Theresa Horton is a freelance writer living in Chicago. Follow her on her social media @passionateresources (Instagram).
This story is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.
It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.