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Health workers take risks of working on frontline

China Plus Published: 2020-07-22 14:54:48

Chantee Mack, 44, a disease intervention specialist in Prince George’s County Health Department has died due to the coronavirus. Mack worked on the frontline when the coronavirus hit in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

This 2013 photo provided by Roland Mack of District Heights, Md., shows him with his sister, Chantee. [Photo: AP]

This 2013 photo provided by Roland Mack of District Heights, Md., shows him with his sister, Chantee. [Photo: AP]

Mack specialized in sexually transmitted diseases program, but when the COVID-19 breakout happened, she was among the 100 staffers deemed essential during the pandemic.

The coronavirus infected at least 20 employees, but they still worked on the frontline, participating in meetings and taking care of patients. The shortage of personal protective equipment is a big problem that makes health workers exposed to the virus, taking risks to save other people.

Roland Mack holds a poster with pictures and messages made by family members in memory of his sister, Chantee Mack, in District Heights, Md., on Friday, June 19, 2020. [Photo: AP]

Roland Mack holds a poster with pictures and messages made by family members in memory of his sister, Chantee Mack, in District Heights, Md., on Friday, June 19, 2020. [Photo: AP]

“We’re the ones called to the fire to do this during an emergency. We are essential. People don’t look at us as first responders, but we are,” said Mack’s co-worker Rhonda Wallace, leader of a local branch of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who, like other union members, stressed she wasn’t speaking for the health department. Colleagues are heartbroken over the loss of a valued employee who had worked there since 2001.

This 2016 photo provided by Roland Mack of District Heights, Md., shows him with his sister, Chantee. [Photo: AP]

This 2016 photo provided by Roland Mack of District Heights, Md., shows him with his sister, Chantee. [Photo: AP]

Prince George officials didn’t immediately respond to the shortage of PPE and how the employee illnesses affected the department’s operations. The county has a telework policy since mid-March, and Mack asked to work from home because of obesity, but her request was rejected. She was hospitalized in mid-April, stayed on a ventilator for four weeks and also needed a blood transfusion. Her kidneys failed and she developed a brain bleed. On May 11, she passed away.

Mack’s situation is not unique. Public health workers in other states, like Ohio, Oregon, California and Georgia, work through their sickness to tackle the ongoing pandemic.

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