Coronavirus: Caregivers facing twice the risk of exposure to COVID-19

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Just this week, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, "If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether."

John Hayes of Pasadena would like nothing more than to follow that advice, but as a licensed caregiver, he must go to the grocery store to shop for his clients who can't go for themselves.

"At least two or three times a week, I have to go to a market and every time I'm out there, I'm exposing myself," Hayes said.

The added problem for Hayes and other caregivers like him, has been the changes made in how people are shopping now.

Hoarding was so prevalent in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, stores put limits on how many items you can buy at one time.

That means for Hayes, who is over 65 himself, one trip to the market for his clients and then a return trip for himself and his wife.

"I am a licensed caregiver by the state of California and I've encountered other caregivers who work for companies and we all encounter the same thing," said Hayes.

Hayes tells Eyewitness News he has tried to shop online, and he has asked store managers for an exception, because he knows that every caregiver multiplies their exposure by simply shopping for their own family "times four, times five."

So far he's had no luck.

"They're either not interested or they say there's nothing we can do."

ABC7 reached out to Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger who says as tough as it is, this might be an issue with no immediate solution.

"I think that the markets are in the same position the county is and that is, how do you enforce? How do you regulate? How do you tell who are the legitimate caregivers and who are people who just want to get in and take advantage of the situation," she said.

On that issue, Hayes agrees with the Supervisor.

"It could very well be abused. You know everyone could say that I'm a caregiver. Maybe if you have a license, as I do, you could carry your state certificate around with you to show that you are a caregiver, not that that won't be abused also, but all I know is that something as to be done."

Right now, it looks as if whatever is done will be on a store-to-store basis, leaving Hayes to do what he can to stay safe; which is hard to do when multiplying your trips away from the safety of home.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS) announced a free delivery program for older adults and people with disabilities.

The county-wide program, called Critical Delivery Service, will deliver groceries, household items, and other necessities to those who cannot leave their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release.

Officials said items could be delivered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at no cost to the client. An application process is not required, but items must be pre-paid and ready for pickup. Deliveries can be scheduled by calling 1-888-863-7411 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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