Home health care workers – already some of the most vulnerable public service employees owing to low wages and a lack of health care – are facing ever increasing threats to their wellbeing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

These workers provide care to many members of populations that are most vulnerable to the virus, including the mentally ill, the immuno-supressed, and the elderly. Their interactions are by definition the “most intimate situations. There is no social distancing in our jobs. None,” according to Astrid Zuniga, a home healthcare worker in Los Angeles. “We are having to bathe [patients], we are having to transfer [them] from bed to bedpan, from bed to shower, helping [them] to dress, there is no 3-6 feet at all.”

The United Domestic Workers of America (UDW), a union that represents more than 120,000 workers in California alone, is currently lobbying the state to guarantee income protection for home healthcare providers who are unable to work as a result of COVID-19, and to ensure they get the services they need to keep themselves healthy and safe.

“California needs to understand that these are front-line health care workers who care for the seniors and people with disabilities who are at most risk from this virus,” says Doug Moore, the executive director of UDW. “We must protect [them], or else lives will be lost.”

Read more about the challenges facing home health care workers on the front lines during the coronavirus outbreak here.