Not everyone stopped working when COVID-19 — and the subsequent stay-at-home order — began. Essential workers have been clocking in at grocery stores, hospitals and other important businesses around the state.
An essential worker is “someone that performs work involving the safety of human life and the protection of property,” according to the 2013 Essential Services Act.
Places like grocery stores, fast-food restaurants, utility operations, gas stations and pharmacies are still open and staffed. Victoria Featheringill works at a CVS pharmacy and said there’s been a big change in being cautious about cleanliness, but her pay hasn’t changed regardless of the risk of contact with sick patients and contracting the virus.
“We now have to clean everything every hour, wash our hands or use hand sanitizer constantly, are required to wear masks, have tables set up in front of registers and we put up plexiglass to ensure patients stay at a six-foot distance from us,” Featheringill said.
Although CVS’s hourly pay rate hasn’t changed, those who work ten hours a week will receive a $150 bonus and those who work 30 hours a week will receive a $300 bonus.
“CVS is being understanding to anyone that becomes sick during this time and if we do test positive for the virus, we get two weeks of paid time off,” Featheringill said.
Featheringill feels as though customers have been more appreciative than ever and have even brought in coffee to show gratitude.
“It feels good to be considered an essential worker because I know that I’m making a difference and helping patients during this scary time,” Featheringill said.
On the other hand, Misty Waters, who works at McDonald’s as an essential worker, said customers are being ruder than ever.
“This one guy literally parked his car so far away from the window that he had to get out of his car to grab his food or people will almost drop their food trying not to touch me,” Waters said.“Just act normal around us. … If you’re scared that we are personally going to give you the virus maybe you should stay at home instead.”
There have been many changes to the inside of McDonald’s to help keep the workers safe.
“At first the only real big change was the lobby being closed, but now we have plastic sheets covering less than half the window that doesn’t really do anything. We also have a limited menu now,” Waters said.
In regard to sick days and pay, not much has changed for employees since the virus started.
“My pay has not changed at all,” she said. “Our sick days are not paid, but they’re more lenient on reasons to call off. Although, the managers still get pissed when people call off.”
There are a lot of places that are taking employees’ temperatures, having workers use gloves and wear masks and being extra cautious with anyone who shows symptoms.
“At first, they didn’t take our temperatures before clocking in, but now they do,” Waters said.
Olivia Simpkins, a waitress/hostess at Bob Evans, said although they aren’t letting people eat inside the establishment, they’re still serving takeout.
“I’m indifferent about being an essential worker. I just don’t feel that a restaurant should be considered essential, honestly,” Simpkins said.
Bob Evans hasn’t changed the amount of pay for employees, and the restaurant often has limited staff.
“I think that people should definitely thank them (essential workers) because without them you wouldn’t be able to do everyday things. Also, it’s important to understand that we’re all human and sometimes make mistakes,” Simpkins said.