Essential Workers Weary Nine Months Into Pandemic
"I'm just so drained mind, body and soul."
Since March, we’ve been checking in with a group of essential workers who have shared their stories with us about how they have been faring on the frontlines of the COVID-19. (Note: Names of individuals and some details have been withheld or altered to protect their identity and jobs. The stories have been edited slightly for clarity.)
‘It was a rough two weeks’
Ofelia, a staffing consultant: Ofelia and her husband had been taking precautions outside of work to protect their family from COVID-19. She was feeling much safer in June.
People need to realize that this is very real and should take the virus seriously. We are taking extra precautions. We sanitize constantly. We practice social distancing, and we avoid large crowds and gatherings. Things at work are much better. We scan everyone before they enter the building and sanitize after each person leaves our office.
‘I think everyone is getting COVID weary’
Linda , a public health nurse: Wracked by anxiety early in the pandemic, she worried about bringing the virus home. By summer, she was feeling less fearful but still didn’t feel safe.
Update: Today (and the next 10 days) I am quarantining. A staff member tested positive for COVID, and everyone in our clinic was exposed and needed to be tested and has to quarantine. Because we are essential health care workers, once we present a negative result five days after exposure, we can return to work but need to quarantine for a total of 14 days after exposure in our personal life. I think everyone is getting COVID weary and we’ve all let down our diligence in hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing. Clinic staff is a little less careful about wearing proper PPE.
Outside of work, it’s incredibly depressing to see people behaving so carelessly— not wearing masks, not social distancing and having social gatherings. I was at a car dealership in rural Wisconsin a few weeks ago, and people were looking at me and my friend like we had two heads. Of approximately 30 people in the showroom, we were the only two with masks. I feel horrible for my brothers and sisters of the stethoscope (RNs) who have been understaffed, overworked and burnt out since April.
Please, please, please wear a mask to give them a break. No need for signs, parades or concerts. Just wear a friggin mask and stay the heck at home. Wearing a mask has become a political statement. It’s not. It’s a health preservation statement. Medical workers need a break. Hopefully within 6 months mask wearing will be a memory because everyone will be immunized. But, then again, immunizations are likely to become another political statement.
‘All of us have been healthy’
Lisa, a chef/supervisor at an assisted living facility: Early in the pandemic, there was an outbreak at the facility she works at, and some residents died. By summer, all residents and staff at her facility were COVID free. Things seemed to settle down by August, and she said she was feeling a lot more comfortable.
We just started to let visitors come, but it can only be one at a time, and they must visit in the gathering rooms in our basement. Staff still has to change into scrubs upon arrival and change back before they leave. PPE has been a little bit easier to get. So all in all, it’s pretty calm around here except staff call-ins and no shows, but that’s a totally different story!
My family has been good. My mom still hasn’t been out of the house since March. My kids and I occasionally go out to eat or to the store but always wear masks and sanitize after. All of us have been healthy.
‘I’m just so drained mind, body and soul’
Maria, a former Walmart worker and tax preparer: Maria had not had the opportunity to meet her first grandchild who was born during the pandemic and was frustrated at being mistreated by customers at work.
As for my job at Walmart, I am no longer there. It got to be too much, and it does not help when the company as a whole does not really support their associates. I loved my job. The people I worked with are amazing, but to upper management you’re just a number. I did not feel safe from the beginning and in the end, it was the same. The things you have to put up with are just not worth the stress. I thanked God for the job when so many did not have one, but my mental and physical health are more important than a paycheck.
‘More concerned now than I was in the beginning ‘
Jennifer, a former delivery worker: Safety concerns led her to leave her job at Amazon this summer.
Update: Nothing’s changed. I’m still not working. I’m very much more concerned now than I was in the beginning of the pandemic due to the rise in positive cases. I’m still staying home and still wearing a mask when I do step out.
This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on fifteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
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