Health care workers talk about the strain the virus has on their lives

Though health care workers in Florida say they appreciate the praise they have been receiving in dealing with the pandemic, they also note the toll the coronavirus has had on them personally and professionally.

When most people get home from work, they want to relax on their couch and have time to themselves. These workers don’t have that pleasure. Now, they must adjust their regular routine before they even enter their homes.

Kristina Andrea, 22, works in the emergency department at Broward Health Medical Center, helping to register patients and collecting insurance information. She asked that her true surname not be used, as she said she had previously been threatened by patients.

“After work I immediately change in the garage without entering the house with work clothes,” she said.”Everything goes directly into the washer and I disinfect everything from my lunchbox, work ID, phone, purse, belt. Shoes stay outside and I still disinfect them.”

Randee Viena, 24, is a registered nurse for Memorial Healthcare, taking care of patients who have been tested for the virus but are awaiting results. Just like Andrea, she changes in her garage and her scrubs go directly into the washing machine before she enters the house.

Viena stores her shoes in a bin inside of her trunk and places her phone under a UV light to disinfect it. Although she hasn’t directly come in contact with any patients that have tested positive for COVID-19, the stress from the pandemic is mounting.

“There’s always a worry that I could take this home to my family or even pass it to my patients or the public,” she said. “There’s also the stress of finding limited supplies of disinfectants such Lysol and Germ-X to make sure I disinfect before going home.”

Samuel Solano is a 22-year-old sales associate at the Pill Box Pharmacy and Medical Supply in Pembroke Pines. He helps customers in the store as well as makes deliveries.

When Solano arrives at home, he leaves his shoes outside and proceeds directly to the shower. He doesn’t greet anyone in the house until he has showered and disinfected himself. He said his clothes remain in a separate bin from everyone else’s as a precaution.

Andrea and Viena have both felt the economic impact of the virus as well.

Viena received a call this past Friday alerting her that her hours are going to be cut back. She said the financial stress coupled with the stress of working inside of a hospital during this time is beginning to mount.

Andrea’s partner lost his restaurant job recently, meaning the household — which includes a child — is now dependent solely on her income.

“We have to buy only things that are necessary in order to have extra money for emergency funds,” she said.

She noted it hasn’t all been bad. They’ve been saving money by not eating out and exercising more.

“It was time to put down those extra cookies and chips at the grocery store and use this quarantine as a health boost too,” she said. “With all the restaurants closed, it’s definitely helped my wallet. We really enjoying going out to dinner together and grabbing a nice cold drink by the beach. As soon as the quarantine is over, I’m sure that’s where you’ll find us.”

Michael Garcia is currently a journalism major at Florida International University (FIU) in his senior year. He is the Vice President and co-founder of the Modern Sports Media Group LLC. In addition to behind the scenes and everyday management of Modern Sports Media Group, he is the co-host of the Nothin’ But Net show and The Get in The Box podcast, both of which are Modern Sports Media productions. Sports are his biggest focus and a large reason for selecting his FIU major and career path.