Black Women On The Front Lines Of The Coronavirus

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Daphne Opoku is a 33-year-old RN-MSN CMSRN PHN, at Cedars-Sinai Los Angeles and a professor at West Coast University in California.

Black women on the front lines of the coronavirus

Source: Daphne Opoku / Courtesy of Daphne Opoku

MN: Over the last few days, government officials have taken drastic, but necessary measures to contain the outbreak. What are the measures being taken at your hospital to keep staff safe/alert?

DO: Limited patient visitors, soft screening of symptoms of patients visitors prior to having access to patient populated areas, No overnight stays, [and providing] continuous nursing resources for educating the staff.

MN: Are there any discussions regarding supply shortages/shortages of beds/ventilators?

DO: Yes, supply shortages have become a constant topic as noticeably, patient visitors are stealing face masks, antimicrobial wipes, boxes of gloves and other protective gear. It’s gotten to the point of hiding supplies in locked or monitored areas to prevent future shortages. In some cases, they’ve asked us to utilize a mask several times and have suggested it’s okay to use in multiple patient rooms if needed (desperate times call for desperate measures because this was strongly discouraged [due] to infection control). As for beds, so far the census has been controlled in the sense that prior to being admitted, there’s a protocol of measures taken to ensure we don’t treat urgent care needs in an acute care setting. Also, I think people are just staying home and staying clear of the possibility of contracting the virus. The ER is no place to be if you don’t have to be especially if you’re immunocompromised at a time like this.

MN: When it comes to Black families and communities, Black women hold many customer facing positions and are seen as the backbone of the family. What are the concerns you have for Black women in this global health crisis as a collective, and what precautions have you taken to keep yourself safe/healthy?

DO: The concern I have in this global health crisis is if statistics show that we as a collective face greater obstacles in health care access and in some cases treatments, then how will we be protected against the existing inequities? How will we have the same access COVID-19 testing as white men and white women? Are testing kits equally distributed in our communities as they are in others? Furthermore, many Black people who do work in service industries may not have the necessary benefits needed to take time off if sick. The risk of that is, they come to work sick bearing through it so they won’t miss out on their wages but in turn their illness spreads. We are indeed at a great risk. Precautions I’ve taken to remain safe and keep others around me safe is to continue to do what has proven to work. Wash my hands (nothing new for me), take vitamins specifically for immunity, get much-needed rest and schedule an appointment with my PCP if anything reasonably changes with my health.

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