A Day in the Life of a Delivery Driver in the South

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A Day in the Life of a Delivery Driver in the South

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I deliver copier toner to various clients across Northwest Arkansas, so I am able to see the various ways COVID-19 has impacted businesses, both large and small. Particularly, I am able to see the various protocols of businesses relating to admission into their facilities. From the time I began delivering in March of 2021 to today, it is interesting to see the adjustments made by the community as cases would fluctuate. It is further interesting to see a southern perspective, as the south has been notorious for having a lackluster approach to the pandemic. I will detail six varying instances of businesses across NWA and how they have changed or not changed from a year ago.

1. Banks were an interesting study. My company supplies three major banks across NWA, and all three had very stringent protocol in March 2021, and as cases have declined, they have removed these protocols entirely. In early 2021, bank lobbies were closed to outside visitors with zero exceptions. In order to make my deliveries, I was required to call the bank and meet a staff member at the front door, and both myself and the staff member were required to wear facemasks and social distance. Now, in 2022, these protocols have vanished entirely. Bank lobbies are now open entirely, and masks and social distancing are a thing of the past. This directly correlates with a dramatic fall in COVID cases and deaths, as well as a rise in vaccinations across Arkansas.

2. Chicken plants and food processing plants are an essential part of the economy of Northwest Arkansas, being the home of Tyson, George's, and Cobb-Vantress foods, as well as many others. The protocol for processing plants were stringent in 2021, and they continue to be so in 2022. It is standard practice to not only wear masks and social distance, but also to take temperatures and answer a health questionnaire by security guards. The only change I have seen is a vaccination requirement. Nobody is allowed on the premises of many of these chicken plants without having had both dosses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and vaccination proof must be available whenever requested. Food safety is essential in preserving the health of workers and the community at large, so it is no surprise that these stricter protocols have remained in place.

3. Schools are similar to banks in that COVID protocols greatly shifted from 2021 to 2022. Many schools in 2021 had masks mandates for both students and staff and encouraged social distancing. Now, in 2022, masks and social distancing are no longer required, and school is entirely like it was pre-pandemic. Student's are free to wear masks if they so choose, but any protocol has vanished. This is particularly prevalent in smaller school districts. Depending on the district, many smaller ones had zero protocols to begin with, so things haven't changed in that sense.

4. Manufacturing plants are common in NWA, and many of them have maintained pandemic protocols in 2022. Temperature checks, masks, and social distancing are the norm. There are even a few plants that require appointments to enter their facilities in order to maintain security and prevent the spread of COVID. This is largely attributed to maintaining the health of the workers and preventing outbreaks in facilities that would limit production capabilities in a time when goods are so scarce.

5. Transportation is another major business in NWA, and interestingly, protocols have been minimal. Many transport companies had no original mask requirement, social distancing requirement, or a temperature check. This attitude has continued in 2022, despite the extensive traveling many truck drivers engage in. There were many concerns in the COVID conscious sectors of the community about the possibility of interstate infection, but no changes to trucking protocol were made. It is further interesting the extensive COVID regulations placed on truckers from other states, compared to states like Arkansas.

6. Hospitals and medical clinics, like many across the nation, have made minimal changes to COVID protocol. Washington Regional Medical Center, Northwest Medical Center, and Mercy Hospital all have bared the brunt of COVID in NWA, and masks, temperature checks, social distancing, and exposure questionnaires are the new norm, and medical administration has been unmoving in their insistence on these protocols. Indeed, medical facilities are the locations in which there is the greatest risk of exposure and many medical clinics are still closed to walk-in visitors. The only change really seen from 2021 to 2022 is the allowance of visitors. Previously, no outside visitors were permitted in the hospitals without special permission. As cases declined and vaccine rates grew, the hospitals lifted this restriction and now visitors are common place.

It will be interesting to see when and if some of these protocols will change as the pandemic advances. Indeed, it is also interesting to see how and if protocols become a new essential part to admission to various facilities across NWA beyond the pandemic.

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The Toast of Covid Link Text

This item was submitted on March 20, 2022 by Brett Reinert using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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