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'We are very short on supplies:' Workers on the front line of COVID-19 share their stories

Restaurant and travel workers and first responders held a video conference to share personal stories of their working conditions and the impact of the virus.

COLORADO, USA — Protective gear supply, concern over economic stability, employee benefits, airport worker risks were among those discussed by workers considered on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that first appeared in Wuhan, China in late 2019. This new strain of coronavirus began popping up in the United States in February.  

Restaurant workers, first responders and travel professionals spoke Tuesday in a conference call about the difficulties COVID-19 has posed in recent weeks both at work and at home. 

The call was hosted by The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105, a union made up of more than 8,500 healthcare, property service and airport workers in Colorado.

> In the video above, 9Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli answers viewer questions related to COVID-19.

Jimmy Allen, a City of Aurora firefighter, said first responders are running low on protective gear.

“Now we have to pick and choose what calls we are going to wear our protective gear on,” said Allen. “We will still continue to respond, but we are very short on supplies, and we need a larger healthcare policy that covers entire state."

Conference panelists echoed fears of economic instability and longevity of closures.

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Karla Wagoner, a Fort Collins home care worker, shared concern about paid sick leave, especially for those in the hospitality industry that find themselves currently out of work.

“As of yesterday afternoon, when I left I was told I should probably not count on coming back until the state or county lifts the precautions,” said Wagoner.

Wagoner said she comes from a family that works primarily in the hospitality industry. Gov. Jared Polis on Monday mandated that restaurants close their dine-in areas for customers for 30 days. Takeout and delivery are still available at many restaurants.

RELATED: Gov. Polis: Restaurants, casinos, theaters to close across state

“We are very concerned about the future and length of time this will continue, and how to support our family,” said Wagoner.

RELATED: Coronavirus live blog, March 16-22

Jamie Simpson, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, spoke to anxieties surrounding how to care for loved ones in the event of a self-quarantine.

“I could be quarantined at any time, at any place I fly to, for 14 to 30 days,” said Simpson. “We have to consider a plan for loved ones if we are quarantined. We need to be able to self-quarantine without loss of pay.”

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Health officials announced Colorado's first presumed positive case on Thursday, March 5. Since then, numerous other presumed positive cases have been confirmed. The results for anyone tested at a local level are considered “presumptive positive” until the CDC confirms the cases.   

NUMBERS: Colorado COVID-19 cases, March 16-22

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. 

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