A Retail Worker's Fear of Going Back to Work During a Pandemic

On Monday, Governor Mike DeWine made an important announcement about the slow reopening of the state of Ohio. This partial reopen allows manufacturing, distribution, construction, and retail to open back up. This personally affects me because I work in retail. I’m an assistant manager at a store in Summit Mall in Fairlawn, Ohio. I have many mixed feelings about going back to work. I’ll start with the more positive ones. I have been on furlough since the end of March, so I haven’t received a paycheck for about a month and it would be nice to start earning some money again. I’m also excited to see all my work friends and get some form of normalcy back into my life. Just being able to go somewhere besides my own home would be awesome.

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The one feeling though that overshadows all of these is fear. They don’t have a cure for  COVID-19 and creating a vaccine for it could take years. If I did get sick, I would need to be tested for it, but state officials are having a hard time getting ahold of testing kits. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that a second wave of the virus hit would be devasting because of the lack of kits. It also takes time to process all of these tests. If a person is tested but continues to work, they could spread the virus to their colleagues and customers. Scientists at Harvard told the New York Times that "in order to ease restrictions, the nation needed to at least triple the pace of testing.”  It seems, as well, that people haven’t been taking the necessary precautions with protests breaking out across the country full of people who want states to reopen and say that staying at home orders is a violation of their rights. This could be because right-wing new sources are saying that the virus isn’t serious, and the POTUS has made it clear that he is willing to sacrifice workers' safety and health if that means the economy will prosper.  People who aren’t taking this crisis seriously won’t take the necessary precautions needed to stop the spread. 

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My fears are not just about the threat of illness either. COVID-19 has shown us very clearly that our government and corporations do not care about the working people of this country. I think Mike DeWine has done a good job of handling the pandemic. He took early action in shutting down the state and saved peoples' lives by doing that. Unlike most Republican governors, he didn’t follow Trump’s advice. Instead, he listened to health officials and made decisions that were best for the people of his state not what’s best for his political career. Yes, he has done a good job but it’s really the bare minimum for a governor to be keeping his state safe because his job is to represent the best interest of his people. If the president, state representatives and protestors continue to grow more impatient with quarantine, will Mike DeWine keep the best interests of his people in mind? Will he make sure that businesses are providing their workers with the necessary equipment to keep themselves safe?

I also wonder how companies will continue to take care of their employees that they so heavily rely on. The company I worked for stopped paying basically every worker except for the CEOs, who took a 25% pay cut, but I’m sure they are making thousands, if not millions of dollars still. Think of how useful that money would have been to their workers who are struggling to pay rent, make car payments, pay for groceries and other essentials. On May 1st, workers from Amazon, Instacart, Target and Whole Foods walked off the job in protest of businesses being slow to provide safety equipment and put in safety policies. These companies have made public promises that they will do more to provide these, but workers say they have seen little to no improvement.

My company has yet to say if they will reopen or not on May 12th. Since they are a large company and have stores in all different states, they will have to adjust them polices accordingly. I hope they will do all they can to keep workers safe because I do not want to be the sacrificial lamb to capitalism like so many grocery stores, delivery, and fast-food workers have been made to be.sticky note that has