Life as an essential worker during a pandemic


Creative Commons

Students who have jobs as fast food workers have to manage the stress of many extra safety precautions during this pandemic.

Genesis Lopez, News Editor

77 days.

As of today, May 29, it’s been 77 days since the California lockdown began. 

For many of us, our new “normal,” consists of basically the same stay at home routine: staying up past 2 a.m., sleeping in the next day, avoiding schoolwork and responsibilities, hazily pushing through the remainder of the day, and repeating the process all over again.

However, for many Americans, risking their lives on a daily basis has become their new normal. According to data collected by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, roughly 49 to 62 million individuals are currently deemed essential workers, which totals up to about 34 to 43 percent of the total US workforce.

Roxana Rivera, a senior at Middle College High School, doubles as a full time KFC employee and student. Her experience as an essential worker highlights some of the precautions employers are implementing as a result of the pandemic.

“We have made the inside of the restaurant to be used only for carry out orders, meaning that no one is allowed to dine in. Also, we have put up signs outside our doors saying that if you have been sick in the past 24 hours, don’t go inside. Also, the employees now wear masks and gloves at all times. Yes, the guidelines have been respected and my manager does heavily enforce them, ” shared Rivera. 

Eric Cazales, a Cal State Fullerton Senior, is simultaneously a part time McDonald’s worker, AVID tutor at Mendez Intermediate, and full time student. He has been working from home and on the frontlines ever since the lockdown began. 

“My daily routine always fluctuates with what my goals are for the day, especially now that school is over for the semester. One thing that always starts my day is a prayer in order to feel protected from the world… Once it is time to go to work I always try to get ready 20 minutes earlier in order to make it and check if I have my mask on or in my car. Once I go to work it’s all about what the managers would want me to do.”

When asked if he had the option to quit his job if he felt it compromised his health and safety, Cazales had the following to say. 

“One thing that scared perhaps a good majority of the crew and managers is that someone tested positive for COV-19 which made many people uncomfortable to work and just unsafe. However, it was just last week that many returned and went their usual ways but with more stricter rules implied… I do have an option on leaving my job yet it would be more of a struggle for my family. One being is that I pay bills in order to help my mom and even give money for the rent as well as buy some essentials for the house. However if my job gets too risky in which I feel the pay is not worth the risk I would leave.”

Rivera however, does not have the same liberties.

“I’m forced to work due to having to support myself and saving up for college tuition and rent.”

She explains how we as consumers can create a healthier and safer environment for our essential workers.

“Although my store doesn’t force consumers to eat with masks and gloves, I think it’d be respectful if they do so at this time because of the pandemic.”