I am an essential worker during the coronavirus crisis

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photo by Ben Fyke

The modified checkout lanes at the Pawcatuck Stop & Shop.

Story by Ben Fyke, Staff Writer/Editor/Social Media Manager

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on everyday life in recent weeks. Schools have closed statewide, non-essential businesses have significantly reduced their operations or closed entirely, and the majority of the workforce has been ordered to work from home. However, for employees of designated “essential” businesses, they must continue to report to work every day. As a cashier at the Stop & Shop in Pawcatuck, I am an essential worker during the coronavirus crisis.

The disease has had its effect on the day-to-day operations of the store. Plastic gloves are a staple behind the cash registers, and all shopping carts must be wiped down before they can be used. Blue tape on the floor marks the CDC-recommended six feet of physical distance, and a plexiglass “sneeze guard” serves as a physical barrier between the customer and the cashier. The store’s hours have also changed to 7:30am – 8:00pm in an effort to restock the shelves and thoroughly clean and sanitize the entire store.

Every time I walk through the doors of my workplace, I am placed on the front lines of the war against this novel disease ripping its way through America. Although I believe I am taking all the necessary precautions and safety measures, it has never left my mind that I am at high risk of contracting the virus. Despite the best efforts by the U.S. government, there will always be those who ignore guidelines and take zero precautions to protect themselves and the people around them. Customers coughing into their hands, a car with a New York license plate, and customers using their reusable bags are three things I see on a daily basis that put myself and my associates at risk.

As many businesses and offices close down nationwide, I am grateful I am still able to work. Whether it is my classmates saving money for college or adults trying to pay their bills, being suddenly unemployed is a significant disruption to one’s life. I also feel a great sense of pride that I am able to serve my community through this unprecedented crisis, and it is what keeps me motivated to show up to work every day. Being an “essential worker” is important during these crazy and ever-changing times, and I am proud to be one myself.