The Essential People: Risking their lives during coronavirus pandemic


A Whole Foods Market worker gathers grocery carts in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Workers in sectors that governments deem essential are risking their lives during the coronavirus pandemic. Hear their stories in our ongoing series: The Essential People.

The Essential People: Fighting COVID-19 on Chicago’s South Side

COVID-19 has placed a huge strain on the resources of the country’s hospitals. That is especially true of Roseland Community Hospital, a small but vital safety-net hospital on Chicago’s South Side.

CGTN’s Dan Williams was allowed exclusive access to the hospital that was already facing a funding shortage and is now, according to hospital administrators, hanging by a thread.

And the death toll in the U.S. from the pandemic continues to rise and now tops 60,000.

Follow Dan Williams on Twitter @DanWilliamsTV

The Essential People: Medical students stepping up to the frontlines

These medical students are stepping up to help hospitals test for COVID-19. The swab tests they’re performing at the Detroit health department are critical to an accurate diagnosis.

“One, two, three, on one nostril. One, two, three, in the other,” Michael Moentmann explained before swabbing the nostril of water department employee Leon Wheeler.

Moentmann is volunteering in one of America’s hardest-hit cities, testing police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, and other essential workers who keep Detroit afloat.

And many other U.S. based medical students have stepped up.  Lucia Luna Wong, a fourth-year medical student at Wayne State, said she jumped at the chance to join what she calls a “crash course in public health.” 

“This is just an unbelievable experience for me. I’m going to be a better doctor just because of this experience,” said Luna Wong, a native of Peru.

The Essential People: NYC emergency medical worker — “I’m scared”

An emergency medical technician (EMT) with the New York City Fire Department has given an emotional account of her work with COVID-19 patients, their loved ones and the impact it’s had on her personal life.

This video shared by the FDNY, Diana Wilson, an EMT with Station 54 in Queens, says she has not seen her children in three weeks, and describes feeling scared for the first time in her seventeen-year career.

The video shows clips of Wilson cleaning a stretcher and supplies and putting on protective gear as she gives her account. “I’m so scared. I see what this virus is doing to people and I am trying to be strong,” she says.

The Essential People: Most gig drivers get no unemployment benefits during pandemic

Millions of out of work rideshare drivers in the U.S. are struggling to collect unemployment benefits during this pandemic.

When Congress passed a two trillion dollar stimulus bill last month, it expressly cleared so-called “gig workers” to collect jobless pay. But in practice, it’s proving more difficult because of strict eligibility guidelines. In California a new law already demands these workers be counted as regular employees. CGTN’s Ediz Tiyansan spoke to some drivers about their frustrations.

Follow Ediz Tiyansan on Twitter @Ediz99

The Essential People: Burying the Dead

COVID-19 is claiming the lives of hundreds of people a day in New York. It is the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, where there is now enormous pressure on the city’s funeral homes.

Patrick J. Kearns, President of Leo F. Kearns Funeral Homes, shares how the pandemic has changed how they work. He says, the un-ending number of people dying and in need of funeral services has made work more difficult and the pandemic harder to process. CGTN’s William Denselow reports.

Follow William Denselow on Twitter @willdenze

The Essential People: Keeping the community safe

Police officers are still working during the coronavirus pandemic. See how one sheriff in South Carolina has changed the way he works, carrying gowns, gloves, and masks on his beat. CGTN’s Sean Callebs reports.Follow Sean Callebs on Twitter @sfcallebs

The Essential People: Risking their lives to deliver

Long haul truck drivers in Florida share how they are continue to traverse the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. Many are working overtime, missing out on family events, cooking in their trucks, and not earning a lot more money. See what drives them to risk their lives to deliver. CGTN’s Nitza Soledad Perez reports.Follow Nitza Soledad Perez on Twitter @NitzaSoledad

The Essential People: Risking their lives for produce

Migrant farm workers in California don’t have the ability to practice social distancing in their essential jobs. While many are wearing face coverings, it’s still a challenge to work and stay safe. But they can’t afford not to work, some must fill boxes of strawberries every 10 minutes to get the minimum hourly wage of $12. Many are also undocumented without sick pay benefits, living in constant fear of deportation. CGTN’s Ediz Tiyansan reports.Follow Ediz Tiyansan on Twitter @Ediz99