April 14, 2020 • Web

Essential Workers Inquiry

At PINKO, we’re beginning a new series of interviews with essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic titled Essential Workers' Inquiry.

First in this series is a hospital worker in the northeastern region of the United States. To maintain anonymity, we will conceal identifying information regarding the worker’s identity and give the worker the name “essential worker” or “EW.” This inquiry was conducted over two weeks, and condensed into one interview. At the beginning of this inquiry, the worker was not allowed to wear a mask at work, but the following week, they were allowed. This is the only personal protective equipment (PPE) they have been given as of April 7th. They still have not been granted permission to wear protective gloves while at work.


  • Droplet room: A droplet room is a room where a patient will be placed on droplet precautions when he or she has an infection with germs that can be spread to others by speaking, sneezing, or coughing. Everyone coming into the room of a patient under droplet precautions will be asked to wear a mask to prevent the spread of germs to themselves.

  • PPE: Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.

First Week

PINKO: How are you? How are you feeling?

Essential Worker: Good, just at work. Nothing much going on. I drove into work today, so that was good.

That’s good, at least you’re able to reduce contracting COVID-19 when you drive to and from work.

Yeah, at least I get to do that.

How is work going? Have they given you permission to wear masks or PPE yet?

Work is ok, but they lied to my department and had two workers go into the droplet rooms with patients that have COVID-19. It’s so annoying because they didn’t inform them beforehand. Listen...if my department catches it...we all catch it…and no, we can’t wear masks yet.

That’s fucked up. Have you talked to your coworkers about what to do? Is it possible that you could have your union advocate for you?

My union is a whole other thing. They have some legal stuff going on, so they can’t and everyone knows they probably wouldn’t advocate for us. They’ve been also trying to get workers from other departments to do stuff outside of their job duties like cleaning equipment, when that’s not their job. And yeah, we’ve all been talking, I’m not sure what we’ll do…

That’s fucked up. What do you all talk about?

Just talking about refusal, not doing things outside of our job description. Me and another coworker have underlying conditions and we just say “If we get it, we’re going to die” [laughs].

That’s not funny, please don’t say that.

It’s true though. They don’t care if we get it. They’ve already been lying to us about how many patients we have and have said “oh, we have five” when in actuality it’s really 50. We’ve already had to move different beds around and turn different rooms into droplet rooms. They think we’re idiots and that we don’t talk to each other. Everyone is talking to each other.

Second Week

(Over Facetime)


EW is wearing a mask and showing PINKO their new mask.

Don’t you look cute in your new mask!

[laughs] Thank you. [poses in mask]

How are you? How’s work today?

Work is good, saw some patients. They’re moving them now.

That’s good, to where?

To another floor, so they can take on some COVID-19 patients. Some of the moves aren’t that great because a lot of people are recovering from surgeries or are immunocompromised.

That sounds a bit concerning. Have they let you all wear gloves yet?

Not yet, they’ve said that it could affect people with allergies.

But what about latex free gloves or other PPE?

Yeah, no...they just told us they wouldn’t let us. Wearing the gloves might lead to cross contamination. They’ll stop you if you are wearing gloves from room to room. I don’t know.

Have they given you hazard pay yet?


Wow, they’re really like “fuck y’all huh?”

I told you they don’t care.

Well you look cute in your mask at least.

[laughs] yeah.

Would you like to share your experience in your workplace with PINKO? Email us at [email protected]