NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

The essential worker: A view from the frontline

Shopping centers, restaurants, parks and any other place where social gatherings could take place are now shut down until further notice, unless deemed essential by the government.  
Being an essential worker during this COVID-19 pandemic can be very stressful. Many workers are scared to bring it home. Sadly, because thousands of people are laid off, those working at hospitals and grocery stores are the only providers.
Medical staff are working day and night as their hospitals are full, and they are only taking emergency patients.
Some grocery stores currently have limited supplies on canned goods, shelved items, water and toilet paper and must limit the number of customers that come in the store, to establish social distancing. Grocery stores have also converted aisles into one-way travel lanes.  
Jillian Verrette, 21, a grocery employee at the Westgate Market Basket says, “I  feel safe with all the new rules, but then again, some people don’t wear masks. I preferred working how it was before the quarantine because everyone was happy and enjoyed the work. There are many new rules that are stressful as well as limits on certain items of food.
Verrette continues, As an essential worker many say we are risking our lives being surrounded by new people all day. There is an equal share of very grateful customers as well as angry ones. Many people say thank you and try to offer tips which we are sadly not allowed to take.  
Angelys Ortega, 18, a produce worker at a New Hampshire Market Basket doesn’t feel as safe, “No I don’t feel safe at all working during this time. I honestly think everything should be shut down, everyone staying (inside).  I never enjoyed working but you gotta do what you gotta do to survive.” 
Many parents are laid off and their children are the providers worried about making ends meet. Places such as liquor stores are still open and considered essential which many have mixed feelings about. 
Some employees say other stores are not as strict with safety precautions. Eleanor Coffin, 19, an employee at a BJ’s says, “I feel safe working to an extent, I wear my mask everyday but theres a lot of my coworkers, even managers and a bunch of customers who walk around without one. Its crazy,” she says. BJ’s hasn’t made masks mandatory and they also have not put in place a limit to how many people are in the store, so it’s basically business as usual but with corona going around. 
While wearing masks is now mandatory there are those that don’t comply. Many workers wear masks and gloves and some customers take off their masks inside. However, it is difficult to breathe it is also pointless to wear if you take them off.