Nursing home workers in Ohio and West Virginia are banding together to host candlelight vigils in six different cities across their states at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 18.
The vigils will "reflect on lives lost during the COVID19 pandemic and to demand that policy makers take action to protect nursing home workers and residents," according to a release from the Service Employees International Union.
Locally, the vigil will be held outside of Cincinnati City Hall (801 Plum St., Downtown). There will also be events at Cleveland City Hall, Pomeroy Village Hall, Toledo City Hall and Youngstown City Hall in Ohio and Huntington City Hall in West Virginia.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, 1,491 of the state's 2,611 COVID-19 deaths have occurred in residents of long-term care facilities since April 15. (ODH began collecting data on those cases in mid-April. This number does not include long-term care facility deaths prior to April 15.) And according to ODH data, 103 of the 181 deaths in Hamilton County have been residents of long-term care facilities.
SEIU says: "According to recent estimates, one in three COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes. As the death toll continues to rise, nursing home workers across the country are sounding the alarm on the ways in which corporations and the Trump administration continue to fail to provide equipment, testing and essential support, thus putting the lives of working women and men, their families and communities at greater risk."
A recent national survey of nursing home workers conducted by the union found that, among other results, nearly 80 percent felt their lives were at risk every day they went to work because they might contract COVID-19; 80 percent felt that the federal government was not doing enough and 75 felt their employers were not doing enough to make sure workers had adequate protection, including PPE, paid sick days or free testing; and 90 percent said that if they had to take off two weeks due to coronavirus/self-quarantine, they would have issues paying for housing and/or food.
“Though as a country we have hailed them as heroes during this crisis, these workers were never treated with the dignity they deserve. The results of this survey, which included many participants from across Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia, show that nursing home workers believe that their lives are at-risk and do not have the proper protective equipment,” said Anthony Caldwell, Public Affairs Director for SEIU District 1199. “Nursing home workers are standing together to demand improvements. We cannot allow low staffing ratios, poverty wages, and quality care issues to continue.”
The candlelight vigil, in addition to paying tribute to those who have died from COVID-19, is also a call to "end systemic racism, sexism, and corporate profiteering and (demands) immediate, bold action to protect all workers and ensure the long-term health and recovery of all working people."