COVID-19: The Bigger Picture

The first essay in the COVID-19: The Bigger Picture series in partnership with Thomson Reuters Foundation, the essay and photos documents the impact of working people in the midst of the pandemic

No place seems safe for Elonda English, not even her car.   

Just after sunrise on a recent Wednesdayshe emerged from an overnight shift at the Lake Mary Health and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home about 30 minutes north of Orlando, wearing a surgical mask and a condensation-fogged face shield.

In a parking lot surrounded by oak trees with billowing Spanish moss she pulled out what she calls her COVID bag, stuffed with an arsenal of sanitizers, from the trunk of her silver Kia Forte.

After slipping off her sneakers and spraying them down with disinfectant, she misted her feet, sandals, and her still-clothed body as she got into her car and pulled off her mask, waving at other masked nurses arriving for the day shift.   

At her home in a small gated development of beige and dark green stucco townhouses and apartments, she’s greeted by a plaque outside of her front door.

The words of Psalm 91 are printed on a posterboard with an American flag, renamed the “2020 COVID Prayer of Protection.”

Inside, her 50-year-old mother Evelena Campbell, who drives a bus for another nearby nursing home, has been quarantined for the past week after testing positive for the coronavirus.

English, 35, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), is one of tens of thousands of elder care workers across Florida who for months have shouldered much of the weight and some of the losses of a growing pandemic that lingers across the peninsula, infecting more than a half a million people and killing nearly 9,000 others.

While much of the focus has been on doctors and nurses working in intensive care units, particularly in hard-hit South Florida, nurses caring for the elderly in places like Central Florida, with its massive retiree population, have long struggled for better pay, benefits and staffing levels.

Read more of the essay, here.