Nursing assistant describes risks, fears of job with little to no physical distance

Jeffrey Ravago is a nursing assistant in a skilled nursing facility in Contra Costa County.

The Vallejo man just may have one of the riskiest jobs out there right now.

"I'm scared every day when I come in," he said.

Social distancing with his mostly elderly and very sick patients is a luxury he can't have.

"We change them. We bathe them. We brush their teeth. Toilet them," said Ravago. 

He and his coworkers are doing all that close contact work, day in and day out, without even the basic protection in the age of the Coronavirus--an N95 mask.

They are in such short supply he says the facility doesn't have any to give out.

"I have a makeshift mask a co-worker has given me. It's not an N95 mask but it is better than nothing. We're all scared of catching COVID. And the nurses are scared," he said.

"It is absolutely necessary we have enough personal protective equipment. It is not acceptable to be going in there with a homemade mask or makeshift gloves, " said physician Dr. Runjhun Misra.

COVID-19 cases have spread to approximately 150 nursing homes nationwide including to patients and staff. That includes the Orinda Care Center where 24 patient and three staffers have tested positive recently, and Canyon Springs in San Jose where six people have tested positive.

"The risk they have with those close proximity encounters is just as high as any nurse in a  hospital. And just as high or higher that a physician," said Misra.

Ravago worries what he may bring home. He has asthma and he lives with his wife, teenage boy and elderly parents. He removes his shoes before entering his house. Then his clothes. He washes that mask every day.

He is assuming such risk for low pay, around $40,000 a year.

But it's a job he truly likes.

"I enjoy taking care of patients. I enjoy making them smile and laugh."

While many people are donating any N95 masks they may have to hospitals, perhaps also consider helping out those unsung workers at nursing homes.