As the majority of New Yorkers have been ordered to stay home for the last several weeks, workers deemed essential have been working around the clock to keep the city running. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced quick action in retrofitting and building new hospitals under unprecedented circumstances in order to meet the overwhelming demand for beds and access to care. To keep up with the rapid spread of the disease, construction workers have reported to work at public and private hospitals across the city to build and expand capacity.
Here is a typical day at work for one of these workers, Evelin, through submitted personal photos.
Evelin Torres: Bronx resident. Wife, mother, essential construction worker.
When I was first asked if I wanted to work in hospitals I was a bit scared for my children and family. Then I thought about the many children who are waiting for their parents to recover and return home and I thought, “I can do this.” I knew I could make a difference because of the training I had received from my union so I weighed my options and decided to go to work.
I report to work at 6:30 am to start my shift at 7:00 am without knowing when we will be completing the day’s project. My team and I have been working overtime, 12-hour shifts to expand the much-needed capacity. I worked at Coler hospital in Roosevelt Island for three weeks and I have been working at Bellevue hospital in Manhattan for the last four weeks. I have retrofitted doctors’ offices to turn into hospital rooms for COVID-19 patients. My crew and I complete one room one day, and by the next morning all the beds have been fully occupied by new patients. We never go back to the same area to protect us from being exposed to the virus. We secure an area, finish it and the next day we move to a different project.
I am proud to be working on the frontlines during this health crisis alongside my brothers and sisters from Local 79. Construction workers are risking getting sick to keep the city running and like me, to keep make sure every sick New Yorker gets a bed and access to care in our hospitals.
It is hard to describe how I feel doing my part in trying to get things back to normal again. I am helping and it feels comforting to know I am making a difference, but I can’t help to sometimes feel anxious because this is all new to me. I have never experienced anything like this. When I feel this way, I remember how blessed I am to have the protections my union provides my family and I feel relieved. I am utilizing the training I received so I can safely be on the frontlines combating this disease while doing what I love to do, protecting myself, my family and my community.
For more information and resources for construction workers regarding Covid-19, visit https://www.bxbrigade.com/covid-19/.