Workers worry about the lack of insurance and insufficient safety practices as they continue to work, fearing they may catch COVID-19.
Kalee Atkins, an employee for Marshall’s, expresses her concerns about customers not following safety guidelines.
“There are people who do not want to follow the rules because there aren’t laws that require them to do so, but I explain to them that these rules are necessary for us to stay open,” said Atkins.
Jocelyn Villalobos is a 27-year-old Certified Nurse Assistant (CNA) at St. Bernadine’s Medical Center, she had this to say about healthcare, “My parents pay for and afford the healthcare I need. There are a lot of components to why many people cannot afford healthcare. Since the pandemic, many have lost their jobs which may also affect their health benefits. Some are not aware or educated about how to sign up for affordable healthcare. Others may be arrogant and believe they do not need healthcare coverage believing they are saving more money.”
She describes experiences when being safe is not a priority for her co-workers.
“Whenever I monitor temperature checks for the employees, they are supposed to switch out their personal mask for ones the hospital provides. They are also required to sign their name stating that they are not showing any symptoms before they clock in for work,” said Villalobos. “I’ve also seen nurses and doctors avoid the lines and not sign their names because they are in a rush to clock in. Most of them do not switch out their masks until later. It seems that mostly older doctors and nurses tend to not follow the rules.”
Makayla Loredo, a worker at the grocery store, Stater Bros shared the increased stress levels she has been dealing with. According to her, working in a pandemic to help others feel safe, but not feeling safe yourself is difficult. She explains having to take a couple of deep breaths during her shift to ease her anxieties.
“Some co-workers that I have worked close by have been off work due to having COVID-19. I was very scared, and I was having chest pains and hard breathing, so I also took time off. However, I was clean, and stress was causing all those problems,” said Loredo.
Loredo said that the biggest challenge has had to face is trying to adapt to the new policies in place, while still doing her job efficiently.
Daniel Munoz, a fast-food worker at Carl’s Jr. stated that he does not feel that the government has done enough to protect people like him.
“When we needed masks the most there were mask shortages. There are no government-issued cleaners or cleaning equipment. We have had to provide all of that ourselves,” explains Munoz.
Atkins agrees with Munoz, adding that she had to make their own face masks.
“There is no safety equipment provided by the government during this pandemic,” she says.
Juliet Torres is an administrative assistant at Davita Dialysis Center. She shared how the way she works has been affected by the ongoing pandemic.
“It has changed tremendously. Workers and patients are screened every day and given a new mask. If a worker is showing any form of symptoms, they are not to return to work until three business days. If the worker does not improve, then they would have to quarantine for two weeks.”
According to Torres, patients that show symptoms are treated at a dialysis clinic that is solely for patients that test positive for COVID-19.
During this pandemic mental health has also become more of a problem, essential workers say.
Torres shares that her anxiety has worsened from not being able to leave her home on the weekends to distress.
“I am exhausted and would love to be able to leave and not have to worry about COVID-19 and wearing a mask,” says Torres.
Munoz is facing the same problem.
“My mental health has decreased. On days off, I tend to oversleep because of it. I don’t want to be as active because I feel stuck at work and home at all times. I just try and take the one day at a time approach.”
Despite the struggles, Torres finds a silver lining to the pandemic.
“We are restricted to so many things and it takes away from adventure. I want to be able to go to theme parks, eat at restaurants, without the fear of COVID-19. I have learned to appreciate things now than ever before.” said Torres.