LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As janitorial staff work to keep medical centers clean amid the coronavirus crisis, some worry they are not being provided proper personal protective equipment or PPE.
Sophia Lopez, 28, is a janitor working at Los Angeles County USC Medical Center.
“Doctors and nurses are on the frontlines, and so are we,” Lopez said. “I do public restrooms on the clinic side, so I don’t know who comes in with the virus.”
Lopez, a single mother of two daughters ages nine and two, said she can’t afford to leave the job she’s had for four years.
“My mom made me a face mask and I take my janitorial clothes when I get off work and in my car I change into my regular clothes,” she said. “Then when I come home, I go straight to the shower, put my work clothes with my regular clothes to wash because I don’t want to carry anything inside the house.”
Lopez hasn’t had any symptoms but admits distancing herself from her children has been tough.
“‘Mom why don’t you hug me, why don’t you play with me?’ I have to explain to them that I might be carrying a virus on my clothes or on myself, even though I just showered, to be precautious about it,” Lopez said.
Lopez also worries about her coworkers and other janitors working around the country during the pandemic.
“We’re on the frontlines also,” she said. “We’re putting ourselves at risk, especially because we don’t even know if the room has COVID or not.”
Lopez wears a homemade mask and gloves because she’s been told the cleaning company doesn’t have enough PPE for the janitors.
“There are days that I just want to stay home,” she said. “It’s hard, especially cleaning the restrooms. I go in, I do public and staff restrooms…so anything can happen.”
Lopez said she and her coworkers and their union are working to receive hazard pay, more sick days, and medical insurance.
Los Angeles County supervisors say they are working to get contract workers the PPE they need.