Working During the Pandemic, Safe or Not?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has swept nations around the world, resulting in mass shutdowns of public spaces and businesses alike. There’s no question that workers young and old have been severely affected by these changes; especially in April, as the unemployment rate in the United States rose to a whopping 14.7% (a 9% increase!). As quarantine has continued, many businesses and establishments have slowly but surely been reopening, allowing for teens and adults to return to work or even apply for new opportunities, although with many changes. Rather than simply donning a t-shirt and jeans for work, most workers are required to wear masks at all times and even gloves to further prevent the virus from spreading. While all these precautions may be helpful for the time being, the real question that remains is: is it really safe to work during the pandemic?

Focusing on the outside aspect of working, Rohma Baloch–a worker at the “Kids ‘R’ Kids” daycare–describes her workplace as “safe and secured”. Baloch states that multiple protocols are put in place to ensure the safety of staff, parents, and of course the children as well. She goes further to describe extra precautions the organization is taking, such as decreasing the minimum temperature needed to be sent home, washing and sanitizing hands before and after contact with any individual, etc. Masks are, of course, worn at all times and parents can even monitor how their child is doing through cameras set up for online viewing, allowing for an extra sense of relief. Rohma says she feels safe at her workspace because she knows the behind-the-scenes of all the additional and heartfelt work the staff members are putting in to keep the business running. Baloch finishes off  by quickly declaring,“The best thing to do is follow the rules and stay safe, no doubt about that.” While acknowledging the severity of the situation and also keeping her head up, Rohma is able to keep a positive outlook on the future of our society by looking at the brighter side, even during such times of uncertainty.

Khaila Heinzer, another working student at Enloe, shares her own experiences of dealing with the virus, but from a significantly different angle. As a worker at a popular fast food chain, Heinzer describes her own sentiments regarding the protocols and other measures implemented in her workplace. She specifically states that: “…there are protocols set, but [they] don’t really enforce them as well as I’d like them to. (…) stickers are placed around the building promoting social distancing and [we] are required (yet not forced) to always wear gloves and masks, yet I still don’t particularly feel comfortable with how lax the management is, especially considering that this is a whole pandemic.” With all that being said. Khaila firmly believes that further could be done to promote a more secure environment at her place of work and even in our country as it is, but it’s simply a matter of following the guidelines and protocols set up for us.

While the previous interviewees have been working directly on the scene, Dr. Will Chavis, principal of Enloe Magnet High School, has it a little different. As someone who’s job pre-quarantine involved directly interacting with students and staff on a regular basis, Dr. Chavis is (at the moment) now one of the many individuals having to solely interact with others from their devices during these times. He comments that “communication is a bit difficult to get across at moments” which is understandable, especially when a sole button is the barrier between seeing your colleague’s faces every day or not, but he also understands that some students are more suited for this new type of learning. In a similar position, Matt Abernethy, employee at EpicGames, has also been working remotely from home, but even before the start of quarantine. Abernethy states, “…we actually stopped going to the office before the official announcement for quarantine had been broadcasted. We basically suspected that things were going to escalate, so we decided to prepare ourselves for what was yet to come.” Matt describes his remote work experience to be “a bit more work heavy” than from what he had been doing previously in person, yet in the long run he is grateful that he has the chance to continue working risk-free from the safety of his home.

Having a job has always been a stressful experience. But now, with the raging pandemic still in full-swing, that stress is only amplified by the fear of spreading the COVID-19 virus. As a result of this, multiple businesses and corporations have taken to adopting various protocols and other regulations to lessen the feelings of uncertainty held by the general public. Despite this, regulation is not consistent throughout every business, with some being more lax on safety procedures than others. Thus, one must take their own personal responsibility to secure a sense of safety in our society as it is functioning right now and to decide if working during this global pandemic is truly safe.