Every day before Mary opens up the door to the unit she works on as a personal support worker at an Ontario long-term care home, she thinks to herself, “Oh I hope everyone is OK.”

It’s part of her new normal on the front lines of COVID-19 in one of the highest-risk areas of the health-care system. The virus has already proven its ability to rapidly spread through the vulnerable population of mostly seniors with underlying health conditions and the staff who care for them — among the lowest paid in health care.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees lined up a number of workers to describe what it’s like to be at the epicentre of the pandemic. But by the news conference April 9, only Mary was brave enough to give Ontarians a rare first-hand account of what it takes to go to work in long-term care during COVID-19. But like the rest, she feared for her job so would not allow her last name to be used.