Washington was among those calling for greater protections for frontline workers as the city reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“They call us essential workers, but how essential are we if you’re not providing the protection we need?” he said. “Especially in the sanitation industry, which is one of the most dangerous jobs in America.”
Washington contracted COVID-19 early on in the outbreak. He can still recall that Saturday morning, when he woke up at 5 a.m. to go to work but “couldn’t clear my system out.”
After being told he felt warm, out of precaution Washington sent his son to his mother’s house, and asked his fiancee to go to her place.
The veteran sanitation worker was out for six weeks, including two weeks of quarantine. Although he never ended up in the hospital, he had fevers and lost his sense of taste.
After four weeks of recovery, he said he still didn’t feel right.
“I wasn’t comfortable enough to even go back to work,” he said.
When he eventually returned to work, Washington said there were not as many protections at his workplace as he thought there would be. He brought his own gloves, face mask and hand sanitizer.
“We need something in place to guarantee us as essential workers to not have doubt or be so nervous to do our job safely,” he said, “so we know we’re going to be safe and get home to our families.”