Essential Workers on the Front Lines of the Pandemic

Gabriella Rodriguez-Sanchez, Photo Editor

Millions of essential workers are responsible for providing as well as transporting resources for people nationwide during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, essential workers are anyone who works in communications, chemical, critical manufacturing, commercial facilities, dams, defense industrial base, emergency services, energy, financial, food and agriculture, government facilities, health care and public health, information technology, nuclear reactors, materials and waste, transportation systems and water.

 

Senior Nathan Nguyen has been working as a truck unloader at Home Depot since April 17 after getting laid off from his fast-food job. 

 

Due to the pandemic, Nguyen and other workers have been under new guidelines and regulations and are having trouble adjusting.

 

“We always have to wear masks at all times, maintain six feet apart and are given a free temperature checker that’s good for up to 30 days and must be taken every day before work,” Nguyen said. “If it goes over 104 degrees, then we have to stay home.”

 

According to Nguyen, the most frustrating thing about the store is the rigorous environment he is in.

 

“We’re wearing masks while unloading the truck in very hot conditions, which is slowing everyone down,” Nguyen said. “However, taking breaks and having free water has been good at combating it.”

 

Nguyen said that the most frustrating part about the pandemic as a whole has been other people’s responses, such as hate speech regarding the Asian population, that he is a part of.

 

“Anyone who tries to say, ‘When are we going to get the Asian lynch mob ready to get back at the Asians for giving us corona,’ is messed up,” Nguyen said.

 

In Washington D.C. and across the nation, protesters against the stay-at-home order say that it’s against their constitutional rights, although it’s putting workers like Nguyen at greater risk.

 

According to USA Today, in the healthcare industry alone more than 9,000 healthcare workers have contracted the virus and 27 have died as of April 7. The Washington Post notes that out of the 3 million U.S. grocery workers at the front lines, at least 41 have died and thousands more are testing positive. 

 

Construction worker Jose Reyes has been working throughout the pandemic and said that when the outbreak first started he didn’t know what was going to happen with his job.

 

“I got fired from my old job when the pandemic first started,” Reyes said. “Almost automatically I was able to get hired at my new job because people still needed me,” Reyes said.

 

According to Reyes, even with a new job during the pandemic, his routine and safety measures haven’t been changing much.

 

“I haven’t got any new guidelines to follow outside of hand washing constantly and staying my distance from other people,” Reyes said. “I haven’t gotten sick, but the fact that more people are going to be out and the rules at my work are so loose, I’ll be at a greater risk of getting it so I try to take my own precautions.”

 

Reyes believes that people are essential workers because they need to both take care of themselves and their families but the population as well and without them life would be harder. He said that going out all the time to provide for his family while putting himself at risk has been worth it in his case.

 

“Being an essential worker is a sacrifice that people are making to benefit everyone,” Reyes said. “Luckily, I don’t have a lot of contact with others, but I do have to go out a lot for work, which is dangerous.”

 

Reyes said that if he had one message to tell people about the pandemic it would it be to just stay home as much as possible and only go out when it’s necessary.

 

“I think that people have been overreacting a lot if anything,” Reyes said. “It’s good to be concerned about your own safety and that of your family but putting other people at risk purposefully for your own gain is selfish.”