Editor’s note: In this interview, reporter Andrea Galdámez speaks with her mother, who works as a janitor at a suite of medical offices, about how her life has changed since the COVID-19 emergency began. The full interview, recorded in Spanish, can be heard here:
BOYLE HEIGHTS BEAT: State you name, age and what kind of work you do.
BLANCA GALDÁMEZ: My name is Blanca Galdámez, I’m 42 and work doing housekeeping at a hospital…. as a janitor.
BHB: Describe what your job is like now, with everything going on with the virus.
BG: Well, I have to take all the safety measures, because I work at these medical offices. It’s for… patients who come in daily, but we don’t know if they could have any… coronavirus. Anyway, we’re there.
BHB: What is the difference today, between how things are today and the way you used to do your job?
BG: The difference is the precautionary measures that we have to take, because we have to wear gloves… we’ve always had to wear gloves, but now we have to use a face mask and we have to constantly disinfect our hands, changing the gloves, cleaning more, using more cleansers, disinfecting the area.
I think that if I were to lose my job, for the sake of my health, I think it would be best, because things can be redone, but one’s life is something that can’t be redone, right? I think that in that sense we would be fortunate, to be alive. Even if we didn’t have a job, we could start again.
BHB: So, let’s say, when you get to work, what is the first thing you do?
BG: Well, on my way I… I already have my face mask, I get out of my car and put on my gloves, I put on the face mask. I get there and they give me even more gloves, they give me the material and, more than anything, I can’t arrive thinking that perhaps… There’s a fear, always a fear among us that you can get infected because what we are cleaning are medical offices. The hospital is right next door and all the doctors that work at the hospital have their offices where I work. Obviously, then, these doctors could possibly transmit the coronavirus.
BHB: Your fear, your greatest fear, is to be affected by the virus, since many of the doctors where you work also go and work in hospitals.
BG: Yes, exactly.
BHB: Give me an example.
BG: For example, doctors who are tending to patients at Saint Johns Hospital and their offices are obviously next door. They have their offices there where I work, and they go there and rest in their offices because their hours… they’re having long work hours and some of them are even sleeping in their offices overnight, I think because they don’t want to go home and infect their families, because of the risk… We are also doubly at risk that they bring that virus to the offices. Although we try to take all the safety measures possible, we’re always with that… what do you call it, we’re always with that tension, that we should not forget, that we should touch our face, we can’t. That we have to constantly change our gloves, that we have to wash our hands a lot, use sanitizer, use disinfecting wipes… and, yes, it’s a great amount of pressure that we deal with day to day.
BHB: How do you feel knowing that many people can stay and work from home, but you can’t?
BG: Well, the truth is, first of all, I think of the fact that we have a job, which is very important for those of us who are undocumented. Often it is very hard when we lose our job, in these times, right? That makes me feel that, at least on the economical side, knowing that I have a job makes me feel very well. But I also worry about getting home and infecting… If I infect myself I could infect my family, and that’s something that, where I am… You have that fear, right, one would many times prefer to stay home but sadly, unfortunately, I can’t just say ‘I’m going to stay home and collect’ or something… Well, then, that makes me a little… It makes me feel, let’s say in part fortunate, but on the other hand, I know that I can’t… I have no other option but to work.
PBH: What would you say, what would be your situation if you were to lose your job?
BG: Well, first of all, since I have my obligations, like bills, and paying…
BHB: What would you do, if you were to lose your job?
BG: If I were to lose my job, I would have to stay home and wait to see what happens… wait for this to pass and then start again, restart… First of all, I think that if I were to lose my job, for the sake of my health, I think it would be best, because things can be redone, but one’s life is something that can’t be redone, right? I think that in that sense we would be fortunate, to be alive. Even if we didn’t have a job, we could start again.
BHB: When you saw that this situation was getting worse, what was your initial reaction?
BG: Worry… and that there’s a great risk that we run day after day. But, take the precautionary measures. We, those of us who have been… More than anything, to pay attention to all of what the authorities are saying, staying at home. I went to buy whatever I could get, to be able to have at home, so that I would go out the least possible times because every time we go out it’s a risk we run, because a lot of people are not taking this pandemic seriously. There are always people who are not taking safety measures for their families. There are even people out on the streets with children, exposing them. I think that the first thing I did, the measures I took, was to buy whatever I could and have it at home to survive.
BHB: What would you say is the best… what is the worse part of the day and what is the best part of the day, every day?
BG: Well, I think that every day, to give thanks to God because we’re alive, and at the same time, every day I go out to work, I worry, because I think that when I get to my job, I worry, because I think that… when I get to work there’s that fear one feels of contracting the virus, right, and I think that’s the worse part of the day. But I also thank God, right, every day we wake up healthy and I see that my family is well and taking the hygiene precautions, which is what I try to do the most so that I don’t infect my family when I get home from work.
BHB: Ok, thanks.