During the early months of the Covid-19 lockdown, where people actually stayed inside, the term “essential worker” was most likely to describe a doctor, teacher or a small business owner. Unemployment rates in April 2020 rose to a record-breaking 14.7%. Although the pandemic is far from over, just about everyone is back out in the world now and as of August, unemployment rates went back down to 8.4%. This is quite scary if you think about it.
The risk of exposure to this virus increases immensely in crowds. Working during COVID is quite a strange experience and different for each workplace.
The State of California has mandated masks to be worn in public places, and during work hours employers are required to wear a mask, not just for their own safety but for the courtesy of the people they serve. At restaurants, gloves are also required by the CDC and strictly outside seating with each table six feet apart. Many workplaces have installed regulations to ensure the safety of their customers and also their employees, such as requiring everyone to wear masks, limiting capacity, and requiring social distancing. Of course, there will always be places that like to cut corners.
In fact, at a restaurant where I used to work in the early months of the pandemic, wearing a mask was “optional.” Employees didn’t seem to care about wearing a mask because it was so hot in the kitchen that it was hard to breathe, and they were too lazy to clean surfaces because at the time, it was takeout only. I remember going to work with the worst anxiety. I would bring my mask and gloves and even my own disinfecting wipes because the restaurant didn't have any. I voiced my concerns to one of the managers about customers coming in with no masks and they told me not to say anything to them because “rejecting” service was not okay. Yet within that month, three employees contracted the virus. I quit that job shortly after that because they did not protect us as employees.
My current employer goes above and beyond to keep everyone protected at the restaurant. They have provided me with three masks as well as protective shields to separate us and the guests. They also abide by each CDC guideline in order to remain up and running.
Kim Kroll, manager of Joie De Vivre, a boutique clothing shop, said she takes several precautions to protect both her customers and workers.
“We put a Plexiglass partition at the register, we limit how many customers can shop at once. We wear masks and shields and require customers to wear a mask,” Kroll said. “We also have hand sanitizer in three different areas of the store. We have customers use a stylus when they sign the iPad, and when done signing they put it in a seperate jar and we sterilize them.”
Most companies and establishments in Orange County have been doing their best to stop the spread of Covid-19. Employers can only provide so much safety to their workers. As customers, we need to be mindful of the people who see hundreds of strangers a day at their job and we need to wear masks.