WINDSOR, CT —Democratic senators traveled around the state Friday to visit some of the hardest-hit nursing homes to thank the workers and ask if there’s anything they need.
They ended at Kimberly Hall North in Windsor, where the state has reported 40 people have died and 68 have tested positive for COVID-19. Kimberly Hall South, which is in an adjacent complex, has seen 12 deaths and has 65 positive cases.
“I wanted to look at the people doing this very difficult work in the eye and say how appreciative I am,” Sen. Mary Abrams, D-Meriden, said Friday outside Kimberly Hall North.
She said with visitors banned from nursing homes since mid-March, the mini-appreciation caravan also serves as an acknowledgement that staff are now the physical and emotional caretakers. Abrams said the emotional toll that this illness and ensuing deaths have taken on the workers is significant.
Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, said there is still a very serious problem with COVID-19 in the nursing homes and the workers in some of the homes are still facing shortages of personal protective equipment.
“We haven’t solved the problem and until we solve it, we have to keep working at it. We have to keep shining a light on it,” Kushner said.
She said the other thing they need to keep drawing attention to is the impact on black and brown communities, which have been impacted to a greater extent than other communities.
“When you look at the workers in nursing homes, you see that there are a lot of brown and black workers,” Kushner said. “And we need to recognize if we don’t take care of these workers we’re contributing to the problem.”
She credited Bridgeport Sen. Marilyn Moore with pressing the Democratic caucus to take action and contemplate if they were doing enough.
Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, said hospital workers are getting most of the recognition, and when nursing homes are recognized, it’s largely for “morbid statistics.” He said the work that is being done is “under-celebrated.”
Haskell said the work is largely being done by wome, mainly women of color, and they deserve to be “thanked in person.”
The senators also want to make sure the nursing home staff knows the lawmakers can be a resource for them.
Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said one of the nurses asked where she can get tested.
He pointed out that Connecticut is two months into this pandemic, and healthcare workers still need information about where to get tested.
“We need to make sure people who need PPE can get PPE, and people who need testing can get testing,” Lesser said.
Rep. Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, said nursing home workers and hospital workers are not getting tested on regular basis.
“The cost of trying to reopen something without having that testing available for everybody, every single day is a scary proposition,” Hall said.
Abrams said a lot of these workers are not well paid and are forced to work more than one job.
“If we’re not protecting everybody, then we’re all vulnerable,” Abrams said.
At the same time, lawmakers say they feel a little helpless because they are not in session writing public policy to help make sure some of these things happen. As far as legislating some things, such as workers’ compensation benefits for workers who test positive for COVID-19, Kushner said they trust that legislative leadership is looking at ways to be able to function and still make sure it’s safe for everyone.
“We’re all anxious to get back to that,” Kushner said. “But we don’t want to put anyone at risk.”