By Irini Orihuela
Watching nine-month-old son Dominic maneuver around, Danielle Fuimefreddo Waters and David Waters wait for the day he will start walking. However, David could miss out on Dominic’s first steps if the pandemic starts to overwhelm the healthcare system, and he has to take longer hours at the hospital he works at.
At home, David is a dad and a husband, but during the day, he is a pathology resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Chicago, Illinois. While he is not actively treating patients, he is working in the blood banks to help fight COVID-19.
As the number of infected healthcare workers grows, so does Waters’s concern of catching the virus or passing it along to his family. Illinois State Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike announced about 2,600 healthcare workers have been infected with the virus in a press conference on April 25. The number of cases in Illinois has grown to over 48,000 people infected and 2,125 deaths as of April 28. The more health care workers call in sick, the more hours Waters will have to put in.
“If I had it my way he’d be naked in the driveway, and I’d hose him down,” Fiumefreddo Waters said. “But I can’t do that. He has work shoes that he leaves there. He always changes his clothes before coming home.”
As a U.S. Intelligence Analyst, Fiumefreddo Waters is able to work from home and be with their son. Fiumefreddo Waters did want David to stay home if he could. The pair have discussed what would happen if the amount of COVID patients increases. The plan includes Waters staying with a friend who is also a doctor.
“We never wear our outside [work] shoes in the house,” Diana Macias, an essential worker at a sugar factory and whose wife is a nurse at Northshore Hospital, said. “We change our clothes before coming home. I wipe down all the door handles after she leaves.”
Macias is concerned for her wife, Stephanine Turner. She wears gloves and a mask at work to protect herself along with other workers. She tells her employees that her wife is a nurse, and stands the proper distance away from them.
“We have space here [at home],” Turner said. “We would be okay if one of us got [COVID-19], and we had to stay apart from each other. We have talked about if one of us gets it and the measures we’d want taken.”
Non-essential workers have been told to stay home in order to lower the risk of infection from person to person. Even with precautions taken right at the door people can still be carriers and can pass it on. Healthcare and construction workers are considered essential, and have to be even more careful in their home.
“I worry for my daughter all the time,” Joanna Drakoulis, mother of Christina Drakoulis, a nurse at Northshore Hospital, said. “I know she’s an adult, but still. I try to help her out to minimize her contact with the outside world. I go grocery shopping for her sometimes. It’s really scary.”
When Drakoulis wants to see her daughter from a safe distance, she will have her spray down her shoes with Lysol and use hand sanitizer. Christina’s birthday is also coming up.
Those plans, before the quarantine started, consist of dinner out with the family followed by Saturday night plans with friends. Now, since there isn’t much to do, Drakoulis and her family are hoping to order in from a food delivery app, and possibly pick up a cake on their next grocery run.They are trying to plan a little surprise in their backyard to remind Drakoulis how loved she is and that they appreciate her.
“It’s hard to watch my sister go through this,” Nick Scott, Drakoulis’s brother who is a nurse at Northshore Hospital, said. “We have seen her from [way] across the yard when we dropped off some food. We had a nice conversation, but I just want to hang out with her again.”
It will be state mandated that all residents of Illinois have to wear masks when not able to maintain a distance of six feet apart, starting May 1.
March 27, Illinois Governor Pritzker called for all licensed healthcare professionals to sign up for an emergency alert system that lets them know to report to areas that are in urgent need. “Your fellow Illinoisans need you. Your state needs you,” Pritzker said.
“I am not afraid that [Cynthia] will be called into action because I know that she would be willing to help the people in whatever way she can,” Alex Cannon, niece of Cynthia Gonzolez, interim director for the nursing program at Roosevelt University, said. “I am concerned because she is the caretaker of my grandparents. She is over there every day and while precautions are taken, you can never be so sure.”
On April 1 over 1,000 retired health care professionals across the state applied to regain their licenses in efforts to help fight the coronavirus. The Governor stated in a press conference on March 21 that Illinois doesn’t have enough healthcare workers to deal with the pandemic.
“I’m very worried because you don’t know exactly what they are getting into when they show up to work everyday,” Mario Estrada, boyfriend of a nurse, said. “We make sure we wipe down all the door handles. When we get stuff delivered or we go shopping for groceries everything has to be wiped down with disinfecting wipes or washed before being put away.”
The pair have agreed that if it becomes necessary they will live separately to do what is best for their families.
Mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, has taken to driving around in her car to ensure the people are following social distancing guidelines. One of the main reasons for social distancing is to not overwhelm the healthcare system or its workers with a surge of infections.
Governor Pritzker announced in a press conference on April 23 that the stay at home order will extend into May 30.