Faces on the Frontlines

In December, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee sent out a request for testimony from frontline workers who had contracted COVID-19 on the job.

CSEA had two members submit testimony, Department of Corrections (DOC) Captain Timothy Newton and DOC Lieutenant Samuel Quintana, whose testimony is below.

“Hi my name is Lieutenant Quintana . I work for the Connecticut Department of Corrections. I was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in April when the nation really didn’t have a plan in place to combat this awful viruses. I was infected at work, within the correctional facility and as a first responder, there was even less planning within the walls. I wanted to tell you my story, not to scare you, but with the hopes that as a nation, we can grow from our mistakes.

I spent 9 days in the hospital 3 of those days was in ICU and while I was there I saw that even the hospitals were behind on there procedures and desperately short on staff. It took the hospital almost 72 hours for me to get a positive test result. I asked the hospital staff why I wasn’t given any medication for my worsening symptoms and they stated that due to the timing of my test, there was a delay in results and treatment. I couldn’t receive my meds until the test was confirmed and in the meantime, I suffered in that room, lonely, high temp, vomiting, diarrhea and coughing. I was worried because all I hear on TV is people dying from this virus, I wasn’t confident that I could be a success story of survival.

As my COVID worsened, the positive result finally came in and my physician came into my hospital room to tell me I was finally going to be administered the medication that would help me fight the virus, but that there was still a chance I wouldn’t make it. In the event that I was to pass from the virus, I wouldn’t be resuscitated.

When I took the medication my body rejected it immediately. There were times I was so weak I passed out in the room. With an extremely short staff, it took a while to get help. As my condition worsened my physician made the determination that I needed to be escorted to the Intensive Care Unit. On my short trip through the hospital to the ICU unit, I glanced through the glass partitions to see patients intubated with tape closing there eyes shut. When I arrived the nurse on duty was thrilled that I could still talk, I would be the only one on the floor still able to. I grew even more nervous. But after 3 days in ICU and with the help of the overstretched hospital staff and all the love I received from my family, I got better.

We need personal protective equipment, we need standardized cleaning guidelines, we need workers to be tested regularly and treated when they are infected on the job. We can’t wait. We must have a plan in place. Unfortunately though, having a plan and being better prepared involves money. But we must stop being reactive and finally become proactive. It could be the difference between life and death.”


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