Member Story – Vanessa Seastrong
Member leader Vanessa Seastrong says “We should act like everyone has the virus” and protect ourselves
Vanessa Seastrong is a Registered Nurse and one of the healthcare professionals in the state who’s working inside the wire at Patton State Hospital, providing care for patients while striving to keep herself, her colleagues, and her patients as safe and healthy as possible.
Normally, Vanessa works in the specialty clinic, where contract doctors provide treatment for as many as 60 patients each day. Now, the clinic is closed for all but emergency treatment in an effort to minimize patient movement — and risky exposure.
“Despite all reasonable efforts, we’re still in a potential “hot zone” and the anxiety level is high,” says Vanessa. “On top of the virus itself, we’re all concerned by a rapidly changing set of conditions that affect us at work and at home.”
The workloads have increased as well. “It’s all hands on deck,” said Vanessa. “Schedules have been changed to minimize overtime.”
The Patton facility houses criminally insane patients. One of the bigger challenges is the rising anxiety of the inmate population, who see the news but may not be able to process what it means. As a result, the hospital has actually increased staff during the crisis because of the need for staff to manage the movement of patients and help decrease anxiety levels.
Management at the Department of State Hospitals has been working to maintain as much transparency as possible regarding the outbreak of infections among patients as well as employees. “It provides us an additional measure of confidence and encouragement during a tough time,” said Vanessa. “But safety starts with us.”
Her advice: “Walk around like everyone has it. Protect yourself!”
With the closure of restaurants and bars across the state, the unemployment office has been under unprecedented pressure to meet the demands of processing an ever-growing number of claims from newly unemployed workers. These workers, often without unions and benefits, make up a large portion of California’s economy, and ensuring their applications are processed in a timely matter often means ensuring they can make rent, refill prescriptions, and keep food on the table.
“It’s very fluid and hectic,” said Irene Green, an SEIU Local 1000 member and employee at the EDD office in Sacramento. “Things are changing on a daily basis, including our work hours, and we have to be very flexible and understanding.”
Bobby Dutta works as an analyst for the Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) supporting processed-food manufacturers with food safety education and training, and responding to inquiries made to our branch under the Public Records Act. But since the COVID-19 epidemic hit, Dutta’s branch has been working overtime sharing and guiding local environmental health partners and consumers worried about contracting the virus within a retail food facility setting.
“Many of us are concerned about the transmission of COVID-19 and the well-being of our loved ones,” said Dutta, “yet we are equally committed to fulfilling our duties in protecting the public by ensuring that food supplies, medical devices, and drugs continue to be safe and available for people in need.” Dutta and his department are also working with federal partners to detect possible fraudulent COVID-19 test kits and components.