Sharon Solange has worked at Beach Gardens Rehab and Nursing Center in Far Rockaway, Queens for more than a decade as a certified nursing assistant. She says the coronavirus took a toll: at least 25 residents and one staff member died from COVID-19.
“We were hoping we’d get rid of COVID. Now the facility is clean, you know, we just do our social distancing and everybody's gonna be OK,” she said.
But there’s no getting rid of the coronavirus at this facility, it seems. Beach Gardens is now a COVID-19-only recovery facility.
So, she and a dozen other workers are picketing in protest. All non-covid-19 residents have been transferred to other facilities. That means every resident has it.
“You feel like your life is being threatened," Solange said. "Every time you come, you stand over a resident. They cough on you."
“What is happening at Beach Gardens is something that is likely going to happen at other facilities across the state,” said Milly Silva, the executive vice president of 1199 Service Employees International Union.
It’s the start of a likely trend says Silva. She says a handful of other nursing homes in the state already have been converting to COVID-19-only facilities. The union says greater oversight is needed to make sure personal protective equipment is sufficiently distributed, with training, and that workers get hazard pay.
“If we’re asking workers to do a job that is incredibly dangerous, putting lives at risk," she said, "we want to make sure that they are fairly compensated.”
Vaccinations should help relieve some of that risk. Still, according to the CDC, nationwide, only 38% of nursing home workers who have been offered shots accepted them.
That’s about the percentage of workers at Beach Gardens who have opted in for the vaccine.
The administration did not comment, but Sharon Solange did.
“We need hazard pay,” she said.
She got the first dose of the vaccine and is getting the second on Thursday, but is still worried about becoming infected with COVID-19.
“It's scary, you don't want to take this home to your family,” she said.