Pandemic Frontlines: Meet the People Behind Venice High’s COVID-19 Testing Effort


Polina Asaulyuk, Reporter

Once again, it is the end of an average week of school and entire classes line up in front of the cafeteria. It’s not to get food, but to instead get a weekly COVID-19 test. 

The line is filled with audible complaints about everything from the hot California sun to somebody’s girlfriend ghosting them to, the fan favorite, the unpleasant feeling of having someone wiggle a stick in each one of your nostrils for fifteen seconds.  

Every student tries their best to get through the line, get tested, and head out as fast as possible—and understandably so. 

However, with the “let’s just get it over with” mentality, many students often fail to consider the importance of the procedure and the people who stand behind it.  The wearisome line to the cafeteria is in fact a COVID-19 battleground.

The weekly cafeteria Covid-19 testing is created by a company called AMI, a healthcare agency that provides medical assistance in areas of high demand. AMI works with LAUSD to provide safe and easily accessible covid testing for all the students and staff

AMI is filled with courageous staff that selflessly protect lives everyday. Among those brave staff members are two lionhearted ladies who have been generously swabbing noses and ensuring safety. Natasha Fields and Deandra Milton are two AMI nurses who come from completely different backgrounds, but with a single purpose—to make sure that students can go to school without worrying about contracting COVID-19. 

Deandra Milton is originally a certified nursing assistant from Florida, who now works as a sample collector for the company called AMI that cooperates with the Los Angeles School District. 

Milton is from a small town in Florida called Welaka with a population just above 700. She says coming to live in LA was a big adjustment for her. 

“I’m from a town with like one red light,” she said while smiling. “It’s a huge adjustment as far as scenery wise. So I walk out my door and see a group of turkeys or a group of deer. You don’t know what you’re going to see when you come out the door.”

Milton recalls first hearing about the job offer from two of her acquaintances back home. 

“There’s two people that I knew from where I live that found AMI somewhere,” she said. “They came out and told me and my niece about it, and we came here a couple weeks ago.”

As a Floridian certified nursing assistant, Milton not only had to adjust to living in a new city, but also to a new and unusual job. 

“I’m a CNA,” she said. “It’s different from what I do, as far as a CNA job and as far as collecting samples. So it’s two different things. But I feel like it’s going to make the world better.” 

Natasha Fields, an Ohio native, has been working at the testing sites since May 2021. 

Fields had never been to Los Angeles prior to taking up the job. She said her experience of living in the City of Angels started out very uniquely due to the statewide quarantine. 

“When I first got here, California was not open,” she said. “A lot of the restaurants weren’t open, a lot of things weren’t open, and the mask mandate was still in effect.” 

Milton, on the other hand, had graced Los Angeles with her presence before when she visited the city in late August of this year. 

“I came out for vacation at the end of August, so I liked it then,” she said. “Then when I got the opportunity to come back, I’m like, ‘Yes! I’m going!’” 

The unique job opportunities are made possible through the different contracts offered by AMI. 

“The company that we work for employs people from all over the United States.” Fields said. “It’s a staffing, nursing agency that’s contract-based.”  

“So it’s a lot of contracts,” Milton added. “You just got to weed out the ones you like.” 

“Which one is beneficial for you?” Fields asks. “What’s the perks of taking on this contract? Because you are leaving your family. You are going out here and putting yourself on the frontlines. You are going out here every day and risking your life.” 

Despite the risks, the contracts do come with certain perks. 

“The good thing about the contracts is that you get to be picky,” Fields said. Also, the company accommodates its workers with all the necessities to optimize their work, as well as their day to day life away from home. 

“They pay for your stay, they get you your plane ticket here, and they also add on $66 a day for food and things like that with your paycheck,” Milton said. 

Although both women enjoy working in Los Angeles, there’s still no place like home. “The food is nasty,” Fields passionately exclaimed. An opinion with which Milton strongly agrees. 

“Y’all are very expensive,” Milton added to the list of things she dislikes about living in Los Angeles. “A very expensive place to live. 

“I would be glad to come home where everything is cheaper,” she added while laughing. 

Fields shared the heartwarming reason as to  why she is on the frontlines of the pandemic despite all the risks.  

“For a lot of the kids, this is their safe place,” she said. “This is where they are safe. I’m just happy to be a part of the reason why LAUSD is able to bring their kids back to school. So taking this risk is so worth it.”