Being an essential employee during this pandemic is a conflicting thing. No, I am not a healthcare worker, but my job is still considered essential.
My job used to be simple: residents (who live at the apartments I work at) would come to the dining room starting at 4:30 p.m. for dinner service. They would sit in dining sections and a server would take care of them. I would get an average of 20-24 people per night. I would get to interact with them, tell my (terrible and not funny) jokes and things were great. Now, where I work, we are on lockdown.
Instead of interacting with residents, we now deliver their food to their doors. We are not allowed any contact with them and if we happen to be in the hall with them, we must keep the six feet of distance. We hang their food on hooks that are placed on their doors, command type hooks. We also have to wear gloves when we handle the food. We are not even allowed to knock because of cross-contamination. So instead, we lightly kick them to notify them that their food is there.
Before you even enter the facility, you are stopped at a checkpoint. Here your temperature is taken to see if you have a fever or any other symptoms of COVID-19. If you have no symptoms, you are allowed on the campus or in the facility. You are sent home to self-quarantine if you do have symptoms.
When you are cleared to enter the building, you have to wash your hands right away. I work in culinary, so this is normal and routine. When we handle their food, we have to wear gloves to ensure safety for everyone. We also just started this week having to wear a mask at all times. This protects everyone from droplets from coughs, sneezes and other bodily functions that may contaminate surroundings.
This pandemic has changed the way that service is handled and the residents’ routines. We used to only have one service six days a week, but now we are open seven days a week. This ensures that the residents have at least one meal a day. They are older and should not be leaving at all. This has caused more residents to rely on us because they cannot go out to get the items they need. My work has made a “grab and go” station for them and it is filled with non-perishable foods and household items that they may need. They can use the money in their account, the same they use for food, on these items. This is for if their family cannot bring them food and groceries. If the family comes, they are not allowed to come in the facility. The family would have to leave the items outside or the resident has to go get them. This could be a hassle, so my work did this to avoid that and not have the resident’s stress.
The place I work has had two positive cases, not in my facility, but on the campus. We have had people tell us they are not going to come to work until this is over and we have had people just quit completely because of it. After two confirmed cases, we got a $2 temporary raise per hour for the next three checks. This is nice, but I still have to go to work and hope that no one I come in contact with is sick. I work in culinary, so our kitchen is not big enough for us to be six feet apart. I am in close proximity with my co-workers and I do not know who they have come in contact with. To prevent my exposure, I rarely go to any essential places. I do not want to be the one who puts others at risk.
You do not realize how much freedom you have until it is all taken away. We have had residents send us cards or even just call to thank us. It may be scary sometimes to go to work or I may have to drag myself there, but the appreciation they give us makes it worth it.