Being an essential worker during a pandemic

Being an essential worker during a pandemic

Working on a regular day for me is simple; brewing coffee, making sandwiches and greeting customers. Since the spread of COVID-19, health care and food service associates are considered essential workers. Working in a pandemic is extremely scary. For someone who works in food service, I come in contact with dozens of people a day. Even though the amount of people who frequent my work has lessened, I am still at risk every time I go to work.

We have taken preventative measures to see that our customers remain healthy. Everything that was previously available for self serve has been taken away to ensure every ones safety. These measures have changed the way in which we operate as a team, my coworkers and I.

Many businesses have changed their normal services offered and protocol to keep customers and staff safe Photo by Troi Patrick

My job has accommodated health care workers by providing them with free coffee as a thank you for their service to our communities. I have spoken to many nurses and doctors that come to get coffee and they all have similar perspectives. They are trying to remain positive and strong for the people that they take care of who have tested positive for coronavirus.

Other workers and myself have also expressed concern about the risk that we are putting our families in. For me, I live only with my mother but for others who have large households, it is difficult for them to work with the public and have to come home at the end of their shift.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t scary. Knowing that some people may be asymptomatic is even more frightening. It seems that most people are not taking this virus seriously and their lack of urgency makes it 10 times harder as an essential worker. More often than not, people come in and completely disregard the six feet social distancing rule despite markers that are placed on the floor.

I often wonder about my health and safety when people are constantly way closer to me than I would like. It puts you in a bit of a pickle when people expect the “customer is always right” treatment. I have had people get upset with me when I ask them to respect my space.

Although some people classified as “essential workers” are being compensated financially, some aren’t. For the people who are receiving hazard pay it is a blessing and for many people keeping them afloat in this hard time. For those who are working and receiving their normal wage with no hazard pay, they are putting themselves at risk everyday, with no compensation.

Stores are implementing social distancing by placing tape or markers on the floor so that people are standing at least six feet apart from each other Photo by Troi Patrick

A worker that I spoke to at a local dollar store told me that she wasn’t receiving any hazard pay. That store has taken proper precautions by practicing social distancing by only allowing 10 people inside at one time and requiring all customers and associates to wear face masks before entering the store. Despite those precautions being implemented, workers still feel slighted by not being paid extra.

I personally feel as though anyone who is an essential worker, especially those who work in close proximity with effected individuals like health care workers, should be paid hazard pay. Even though an extra few dollars in a check won’t make the virus disappear, it will help people release some feelings of financial stress and instability in this trying time.