Tony Chicotel, Advocate

Tony Chicotel is a staff attorney at California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform who is passionate about fighting for the underdog. Click the black squares below to hear and read about Tony’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The expanded interview (edited for clarity) is available at the bottom of the page.

My initial response was dismissive. I didn’t worry about it much at all. I also think I was perturbed by it, I thought it was taking me away from the work I had been focused on for the last several years and now I’m going to have to deal with this and I don’t really want to deal with it, I want to keep working on the other things I’ve dedicated my time to.

I think going from March forward I think we did the best we could. It was just… it was an overwhelming time. I have three young kids who were all out of school, so I was dealing with that at home. It seemed like the world was falling apart. So, I don’t have any… there’s nothing that I wish I would have done differently from that point on. But just before the pandemic if I had spent a little more time on infection control. I mean there are studies that show that hundreds of thousands of LTC residents across the country die every year from preventable infections and that just had never really sunk in with me as it should have.

Initially I was, I mean my response was very underwhelming. I just thought this’ll last a few weeks at most. This was even when Life Care Center was happening in Kirkland. But what really got my attention was the visitation ban, initially, I was like okay this can’t be ignored.

I got into skateboarding and punk rock music and all those kinds of things and started to look a little crazy. And I think it sort of cemented in me a love for the underdog to some extent. For people who sort of march to the beat of their own drummers. At least an understanding of that perspective.. And when I got into college I got into more political causes and just decided that when I went into law that I wanted to do something that helped people who were under-resourced and marginalized to some extent.

COVID-19 exposed or amplified problems that already existed in the system. And the things I would recommend going forward for long-term care are the same things I would have recommended two years ago prior to any of this happening.

Click below for the expanded interview (11:28).