➤ ASHLEY PHILLIPS, from p.16 warmer weather has drawn larger crowds outdoors
an announcement blares from the loudspeaker
with the much more uplifting news that a
patient upstairs at the hospital survived coronavirus.
That cycle goes on until midnight on
weekdays — after Phillips works at GMHC all
day — and she volunteers there all day on weekends.
“One night I was there all by myself when
they brought down fi ve bodies, and I was like,
‘Wow,’” Phillips recalled. “The next day the boss
came in and said, ‘How was last night? Five
bodies? Are you okay?’ I did what I had to do,
but who would expect — I learned how to operate
a morgue in fi ve minutes.”
Phillips’ work in this volunteer capacity goes
even further. She works with social workers and
other morgue and hospital staff, and she has
strived to maintain the morgue in such a way
that it fosters a more seamless transition for the
families of coronavirus patients who have died.
“The systems are in place and it is working,”
she said. “We know where people are when
families call. There is no searching for bodies
and looking on the shelves.”
Phillips plans to continue the volunteer gig for
as long as she is needed, which will almost certainly
be determined by the course of the virus
and whether it keeps testing the limits of hospitals.
Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in New
York City have all declined in recent weeks, but
➤ VISITING NURSES, from p.14
“Not that I would ever say anybody was insensitive
in the past, but not having the cultural
competency to listen, the education, and
to really understand the difference in cultures
makes a huge difference in holistic care,” Fitting
said. “How we do that is very important for
the LGBTQ community.”
The focus is always on the clients, but the
crisis has impacted the lives of those who are
fi ghting on the frontlines in stark fashion. Trinidad
still cooks for his partner, who is a lawyer,
but has slept in a separate apartment from him
in order to prevent the possibility of spreading
COVID-19. At times, he said, he has felt like he
is the one who is sick.
Through the diffi cult times, however, he has
reasons to keep his eyes set on the future.
“I’m getting married this year,” he said.
And yet, as excited as he was in mentioning
that, Trinidad quickly voiced an important
public service message to everyone — a reminder
that could save lives and determine whether
anybody gets married anytime soon in the way
we generally think about wedding celebrations.
“We should be wearing masks every day, and
still a lot of people don’t do that,” he said. “I
hope and wish people would be wearing them
because when you cough, or when you speak,
droplets will go in the air.”
Trinidad concluded, “We need to be self-aware
and protect each other.”
and some regions of the country have already
started re-opening, raising fears that the
virus could again spread.
No matter how long it takes, Phillips is so
committed to her effort that she rarely ever
takes a day off. Why she remains so driven and
devoted to the opportunity is evident in the way
she describes the importance of helping others
during an unprecedented, all-hands-on-deck
crisis that has especially left a disproportionate
impact on New York City.
“Is it easy volunteering in the morgue? I
thought it wouldn’t be easy, but you get used to
it,” Phillips stated..
During her interview with Gay City News,
Phillips made it a point to heap praise on those
who have traveled from elsewhere to help New
Yorkers during a crisis that is continuing to
ravage the city. But the city also wouldn’t get by
without the help of local volunteers like Phillips,
who has been able to look past the unpleasant
side of working in a morgue in order to make a
difference in her community.
“You have to treat the dead with respect
and you have to make sure things are getting
done,” she said. “I’m okay with working in the
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