Courtesy of Matt Artz
Frontline Heroes is a new Daily Sundial weekly series that honors those who are fighting COVID-19 on the front lines — doctors, food bank volunteers, retail workers, testing site volunteers and the other countless Angelenos who are keeping everyone safe during the pandemic.
If you know someone you think qualifies, send us an email at Editor@csun.edu
This week’s frontline hero is Olivia Salazar, a housekeeper at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. Salazar cleans the rooms after the patients are discharged or after they have died. She has worked there for four years.
“We go in, clean the rooms, sterilize it, get their rooms cleaned,” Salazar said. “We gown up, we wear our helmet, our shields, [and] our N95. We strip the room and then we spray the room with some chemicals like Clorox to disinfect the room.”
Salazar said that the beginning of the pandemic was a dark time for her workplace.
“At first I thought it was just the flu, and it went on like that for two months, it was getting worse. I realized, this is bad, because in our hospital, we have one floor specifically for COVID. That hallway was dark. It was scary going in there,” Salazar said.
Salazar said that the hospital’s COVID-19 wing eventually expanded to the entire hospital. She regularly cleans rooms inhabited by COVID-positive patients.
“At first, it was one room, one floor,” Salazar said. “Now it’s all the floors, including pediatrics.”
Salazar said that the earlier months in the pandemic were frightening for staff and patients, but she is more hopeful now that case numbers are dropping statewide.
“You see more light in the hallways, it doesn’t look so negative like before,” Salazar said.
Though Salazar and other housekeepers are the unseen faces of the hospital, she said the pandemic has still taken a toll on her and her co-workers.
“I like to hug. I hug the nurses, and my workers. It’s hard, not to hug them,” Salazar said.
On Thanksgiving Day, Salazar said that she found out she had tested positive COVID-19. Her two 30-year-old children ended up testing positive for the virus as well.
“They ended up getting sick, they blamed me,” she said. “I take the blame because of what I do, where I work.”
Salazar said the newfound danger of her job doesn’t deter her from wanting to create a safe place for her patients.
“When a patient comes in, I want them to feel like it’s their home,” she said. “A nice, clean home. They can feel safe there.”
Salazar said that even though there are still dark days, she is beginning to feel relief as cases decrease statewide, including in Los Angeles County.
“I’m starting to see brightness at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
Salazar implored others to take the pandemic seriously. She recalled the agonizing pain of her patients and the loneliness of the hospital.
“[COVID-19] is for real. Make sure you do wear your mask at all times, because without the mask, we’re never going to finish with the pandemic. It is real, and people are dying,” Salazar said.