A Tale of Two Masks

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A Tale of Two Masks

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Working During a Pandemic is Fun
In late March both of my part time jobs closed down. I have two contrasting occupations. One is at a Worldwide cooperation. The other is a small, locally owned business. I’ve felt the effects of the pandemic most forcefully while at work. Before the pandemic, I was working 60 hours weeks to support myself and go to school. I did not go anywhere else but work and home. The bars, salons, and other recreational areas shutting down had little to no effect on my day to day life. This is a cross correlation of the similarities and differences of the issues I have run into while working through the pandemic.
At the beginning of the shutdown, my corporate job surprised me with increased wages and benefits to help aid through the initial closings. At my corporate job I was considered an essential employee, but my particular store did not have a drive through. I was able to stay safe at home for four weeks while the company shipped in barriers and masks and other COVID equipment.
My other occupation at the small business, as a swim instructor for children shut down immediately and opted to put their employees on furlough until we were allowed to open back up. Because I already worked one part time job, I did not receive much unemployment benefit. Through no fault of my own, my income was cut in half and my savings are, to this day, empty. Even with the temporary pay raise given to me by the corporate job, rent and my 3,000 dollar tuition made my expenditure even to my income.
When I went back to work at my essential job, which was making coffee, there were a lot of new rules to keep up with and enforce on customers. On my first day back a lady threw a handful of rocks at our window because we did not allow her to sit down at the facility. Many, many more occasions like this happened on a daily basis. People were frustrated with the new rules and unclear on their necessity. Customers were not required to wear a mask in the facility until very recently. This was very frustrating. If only one part of the party is wearing a mask no one is protected. It felt useless to be wearing something that was only designated to make customers feel better without risking their own comfort. The pandemic started affecting Butte county at a dangerous level in May, but people were not required to wear masks in public until four months later. Around mid July is when the Governor issued a State wide mask regulation and we were finally allowed by the company to ask customers to comply.
Even with the statewide mask regulation, and every single business requiring it, customers continue to yell, demean me and blatantly not follow the rule. Every time a customer comes in without a mask I get extremely anxious at how they are going to respond to me politely asking if they have one. My company is even allowing me to give our mask supply to customers without one, for free! Even when offered a free mask, I am turned down and shamed. On this occasion I have to politely reply that I can walk their beverage to them and they can wait outside the store without a mask. If even one person is not wearing a mask, they are spreading their germs and infecting the entire room. If they are contagious or asymptomatic, COVID droplets can live on clothes, and services for up to three hours. It can reach your eyes and infect you that way. If you go to the Doctors office you will see them wearing a mask and face shield for this very reason.
My finance, whom I live with, is immunocompromised. He has had bronchitis twelve times in his 21 year lifetime. This is due to being exposed to mildew and mold in his formative years creating a deadly combination of asthma and a severe dust allergy. If he was to catch COVID-19, he would become fatally ill and possibly die. This thought is on the forefront of my mind everyday at work. I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of knowledge and leadership in the Trump Administration during the Pandemic. It is now 5 months since we first started practicing half hearted health regulations. We are at 1,500 American deaths a day. Our death to population ratio is shameful compared to other countries. We have mass graves being dug on an island in New York for the unnamed victims of COVID-19. This is affecting our prison populations, our urban and rural communities. No one is safe. We have very simple precautions to follow but the constant negation of the validity of these practices from our president has left most of the population under a false sense of security. I have begun to resent customers I once enjoyed chatting with, due to their constant apprehension of wearing a mask.
My other job, as a swim instructor, opened up June 17, about three months after my job as a barista did. This came with the forced opening of the economy. Within the first two weeks of being open, three teachers had to be tested and put into a two week quarantine.However, due to constant sanitation and all employees wearing masks, the spread stopped there. At this job, masks are required or no service is given. All staff and teachers wear masks at all times, and the building and equipment is decontaminated every night. Even with this constant sanitation, you can’t control people’s personal lives. As time goes on people are becoming more restless. When the president claims he does not believe in masks, and holds rally not servicing personal distance or masks, the populace feels safe to socially fraternize. Many of my coworkers are holding small gatherings, drinking with acquaintances and risking contamination through ignorance.
The customers of this job are a lot more understanding. We make it abundantly clear what is required of them and we will not give them service otherwise. These clear boundaries, ultimately, are what ensure proper cooperation. We called every single client personally before we reopened and confirmed the new rules. We sent out emails, we have signs posted and every employee is specially trained on how to facilitate the new rules. I believe these regulations reflect how the populace responds to strong leadership. If we had clear rules from the beginning, with strict boundaries, would this second wave of infection have spread?
Included is a personal testimony of working conditions during the pandemic. Two photos feature different masks worn at different kinds of occupations: barista and swim instructor.

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This item was submitted on August 10, 2020 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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