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The Hard Truth Of Being An Essential Worker During A Pandemic

It is almost a full year of suffering through this COVID-19 pandemic and I, like many others, are feeling drained. The spread seems to be getting worse more than it’s getting better with slight hope of a vaccine getting released soon. State leaders are debating of whether or not to place “stay at home orders” into full affect once again and some states are well underway their second lockdown of the year. Millions of Americans have been working from home all year and students attending their classes through a screen. We see and are constantly being told that the main solution to slowing the spread is to stay home. Yet, there are millions of essential workers on the front lines every day struggling with how to deal with this. Nurses, doctors, hospital staff and overall the whole health care industry is who we talk about the most in taking the hardest hit during this pandemic, all of whom, are helping keep us afloat. But we can’t forget the countless amounts of essential workers running the businesses that the American people desperately need. 

We already know and can see just how big of an impact this pandemic has had on our grocery and retail stores. From the lack of items that we need on shelves to having to wait outside due to limits of people allowed inside. What we often don’t get a chance to see is how this pandemic is affecting store workers personally. I have been able to witness first-hand how things at my store are constantly changing and how we as workers are expected to stay on top of developments, all while making sure we are being healthy and safe. Being a student, it is a little easier to have more time off, but I work enough to feel physically and mentally drained after every day. Seeing my coworkers who have really no option but to come into work practically every day, I can see how scared and completely tired they are. We don’t want to get sick, but we also realize that if we weren’t doing our job, who would? We often find ourselves putting our mental and physical well-being on the line to continue to provide for everyone else. 

Everyone is on edge, sure, but what does it help when we as grocery workers are ridiculed and yelled at simply for implementing the orders that have been given to us? Videos are going viral daily of “Karen’s” yelling at minimum wage workers with this sense of entitlement, as if they are the only ones dealing with the hardships brought on by this pandemic. Essential workers are there because they need to provide for themselves and their family, they are not trying to make things miserable for you. We need to support one another and cut ourselves some slack.

In all honesty, if there is one thing that would show essential workers just how much they mean to us I would say just be kind. All essential workers are going through the same thing you are and are not the reason you have to wear a mask and are not the reason that your favorite cereal is not on the shelves – be appreciative and understand that without our essential workers in businesses and the health care industry, this pandemic would most likely be ten times worse than it is now. 

Sitlali Cortes

Washington '23

Sitlali is a third year student at the University of Washington and intended communications major! She's from Yakima, Washington and when she's not busy with school or work you'll find her with friends and family! She also enjoys reading and writing poetry and making playlists.
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