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What’s got you scratching your head about Milwaukee and the region? Bubbler Talk is a series that puts your curiosity front and center.

The Steps Wisconsin Health Care Workers Are Taking To Keep Their Families Safe

Teran Powell
A Heroes Work Here sign at the Aurora Medical Center in Summit.

People across the globe have been showing support for health care workers on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19. That includes at the Aurora Medical Center in Summit, where parade of fire engines and law enforcement vehicles blared their sirens in salute as hospital workers watched and waved from the lawn.

While people are supporting health care workers on the job, a Bubbler Talk question asker wonders if there’s help for them at home. If they’re dealing with COVID-19 patients each day, how are they keeping themselves and their families safe?

>>The Latest WUWM & NPR Coronavirus Coverage

Well, Victoria painted the picture of how her family has adjusted. She and her husband both work in health care. Victoria is an ICU nurse and her husband is a phlebotomist.

They have three children ages 8, 11 and 17.

"Soon as we get home, we take off our shoes outside of the house and wrapped them in a plastic bag — since it’s been raining or snowing the last few days — and then we just make sure that we don’t touch anything," she says.

And that's just the first step.

Victoria continue, "We go right to the bathroom. We have a laundry basket designated just for our work clothes. Our kids know not to touch us, if it’s like a hug or anything, until after we’ve showered. And then our work clothes go directly into a hot water wash in the washing machine."

So far, she says, the system has been working. While Victoria and her husband have cared for people with COVID-19, there haven’t been any signs, up to this point, that they’re ill.

Victoria is a member of the Milwaukee area chapter of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the world’s largest specialty nursing organization. She says the association has offered members free hotel stays if they show symptoms of COVID-19 and need to isolate away from their families, but she doesn’t think she or her husband would leave their kids if one of them gets sick.

"We have really decided that we are going to stay home with them and practice good hygiene because it’s not really an option for us to completely isolate away from the rest of our family," Victoria says.

Credit Teran Powell / WUWM
A parade of fire engines and law enforcement vehicles blared their sirens in salute as hospital workers watched and waved from the lawn of the Aurora Medical Center in Summit.

But for health care workers who are able to self-isolate, there are other options, too — like Airbnb’s Frontline Stays Program. Its goal is to offer medical staff a safe place to stay between shifts.

Since the launch, more than 100,000 Airbnb hosts around the world have offered their homes. In Wisconsin, there are hundreds, according to spokesman Sam Randall. 

"So, hosts can offer paid, discounted or free stays. We also work with different organizations or partnerships, such as CHG Healthcare, specifically, which operates partly in Wisconsin. Their workers can book specifically through them, and we also have the capability for first responders to book directly through the platform," he explains.

Randall says the home options are typically close to hospitals. So, that offers some convenience for frontline workers.

Jamie Lucas says it’s beautiful that supports like these exist for medical staff, but they are still in need of basic protections that the health care system has failed to provide. 

Lucas is the executive director of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals, a union that represents thousands of health care professionals in the state.

"They need things like hazard pay because they’re on the front lines of a very hazardous situation. They’re exposing themselves, and their families, and their loved ones, and anyone they come into contact with, potentially, and this should be recognized by just a little bit of additional compensation," he says.

Lucas also shared additional concerns such as the need for adequate PPE, or personal protective equipment; increased testing for healthcare workers; and paid leave.

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving every day, creating an impact that no one, in any industry, was prepared for. So, we should keep essential workers in mind who don’t have a choice but to face exposure to this deadly virus.

During this pandemic, WUWM's Bubbler Talk is focusing on the coronavirus and its impact on the Milwaukee area. If you have a question, submit it below.


Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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