The union that represents 10,000 home health care workers recently found out that the state will no longer be distributing PPE on a biweekly basis. That means regular shipment of gloves, gowns, surgical masks and face shields will be replaced with five cloth masks per quarter.
“What I had to do yesterday was actually count out a supply so that I had a mask for every day and a set of gloves, at least one pair for that day for my mother and that’s not going to get me too far. And when I say that I will run out no sooner than November,” Danielle Delmonaco said.
Delmonaco knows how important PPE has been in keeping her and her mother safe.
“If I have to help assist bathing, dressing like I do for my mother. That’s putting us more close contact. And then me worrying more keeping her safe and keeping myself safe for her, “ Delmonaco said.
Diedre Murch, vice president of the Home Healthcare Union, said they had to fight to gain access to PPE when the pandemic first struck because even though these workers are unionized, they make $16.25 per hour which means a full-time worker is only making about $30,000 a year.
“These are low-income consumers and these are low-wage caregivers,” Murch said.
State Senator Len Fasano, R, is concerned with the administration's decision to halt the PPE distribution.
“Putting these folks at risk and that’s just unfair and unfortunate and that needs to be reviewed and reversed,” Fasano said.
The state's Department of Social Services, which administers the Personal Care Attendant Program, referred NBC Connecticut to the letter it sent the union.
“Due to these low COVID-19 rates, most Medicaid participants and PCAs do not need the following PPE: surgical masks, gowns, and face shields.” Instead, the letter said they will be given cloth masks.
“The cotton white ones that we have received, you can still blow out a candle with that,” Delmonaco said.
The state said cloth masks are appropriate unless a person has COVID-19.
“I think it's an issue of the state undervaluing the work that homecare workers do and not seeing them as true health care providers,” Murch said.
The Department of Social Services said it has distributed 898,772 surgical masks, 369,918 sets of gloves, 6,630 gowns and 454 face shields.
“Please pay attention to us that are working in your home. And keeping your loved one or my loved one safe,” Delmonaco said.
The state says it will give out emergency kits to Medicaid patients.
Those kits will include KN95 masks, 50 sets of gloves, 30 gowns and 2 face shields in the event someone in the household does become COVID positive.