Hotel, healthcare workers protest alleged lack of COVID-19 protections – Press Telegram

Workers from Southern California’s hotel and healthcare industries held protests Wednesday, calling for increased safeguards as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ramp up.

The hotel workers, most of whom are represented by Unite Here Local 11, staged a car caravan ending at the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ office on West Temple Street. Activists are asking the board to immediately pause the reopening of hotels.

Positive tests and quarantines

The union said it has learned of at least 85 hotel workers and guests who have tested positive or undergone quarantine since the reopening of the hotel sector to tourists and leisure guests on June 12.

Unite Here believes that number is likely higher since workers are reluctant to report their symptoms or diagnoses and because hotels have failed to adequately trace guests and employees who have had contact with those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Luz Rizo, a housekeeper at the W Los Angeles West Beverly Hills hotel, is worried.

“One of my biggest concerns is getting sick and bringing it home to my family,” the 55-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “I’m getting tested routinely, just to be safe, and I’m washing my hands and doing all of the safety precautions. But I don’t think the hotels should reopen yet.”

Rizo, who earns $22 an hour, hasn’t worked since March 13. The hotel shut down later that month over COVID-19  concerns and has yet to reopen. Rizo said her healthcare coverage will remain in effect through September.

Adhering closely to CDC recommendations

In a statement issued earlier this month, the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, which represents more than area 1,300 hotels, said it has adhered closely to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and worked with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Office of Emergency Services and the California Department of Public Health to develop enhanced health safety standards that “exceed any other industry, short of hospitals, for reopening hotels.”

Still, workers allege the hotels have failed to inform guests when an employee or fellow guest has tested positive or has been forced to quarantine. A Unite Here survey conducted earlier this month among nearly 2,300 hotel workers found that 75% don’t believe hotels are ready to reopen.

Healthcare protest

Across town, nurses, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists at Kindred Hospital Westminster held a two-hour protest Wednesday to demand that management better protect them and their patients from further infection inside the 109-bed, long-term care hospital.

Seven of the nearly 80 patients there are COVID-positive and 16 workers have tested positive — including six who are now on medical leave and another four who have been quarantined — the employees said.

“We need more workers on every shift, more protective equipment and a dedicated unit to house our COVID-19 patients,” Kindred nurse Paul Chang said.

Kindred serves many elderly patients transitioning from critical care settings. The hospital admits COVID-positive patients transferred from acute-care hospitals, as well as non-COVID patients who have compromised immune symptoms and are at higher risk for severe illness or death from the coronavirus.

Workers are demanding stronger safety protocols to avoid what happened at a nearby Kindred hospital in Brea, where they allege a COVID outbreak left more than 40 percent of patients infected, as well as 27 caregivers, one of whom died from the virus.

In a statement issued Wednesday, parent company Kindred Healthcare said that upon admission, all patients who have not previously tested positive for COVID-19 are tested in order to know their status and care for them appropriately.

The company said it has maintained adequate staffing to meet patient needs and has “an abundant supply” of personal protective equipment for all employees.

“In fact, every staff member who enters a patient room is provided an N-95 mask as an extra safety precaution,” Kindred said.