COVID-19 Spotlight Falls on Environmental Services

Vaccine priorities for those who do the humblest work in hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients

December 23, 2020

The phrase “out of sight, out of mind” might as well have been coined to describe environmental services workers. Working in the shadows and often at night, they have long been overlooked but essential components of institutional and commercial buildings. Now, as vaccines arrive to combat COVID-19, these workers in the nation’s hospitals are finding themselves in the spotlight.

Environmental services workers clean areas throughout hospitals, including patient rooms, operating rooms and ancillary places like radiology, labs and pharmacies. They are tasked with discarding waste material, such as syringes.

These are the men and women who do the humblest work in hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients. But they are so integral to patient care that they were among the first to get inoculated this week as the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech rolled out across the country, according to the Los Angeles Times.

They comfort adults and children, protect patients and staffers from the spread of infection and toil in a landscape of heartache and risk alongside nurses and doctors for a fraction of the pay — and none of the glory.

The unleashing of the vaccine has raised questions about its distribution: who will get it first and whether the rich, powerful and famous can cut to the front of the line. The hospital housekeepers’ moment in the spotlight of the vaccination of America is a small cosmic push in the direction of equity.

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Topic Area: Environmental Services , Infection Control

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