Teenage Essential Workers on the Front Lines during Global Pandemic

Elshadai Aberra | Web Editor-In-Chief

Before this global pandemic, working at Chipotle did not feel essential to junior Morgan Wittenauer, and according to Wittenauer, it still doesn’t now.

“It absolutely isn’t essential,” said Wittenauer. “You can make food at home.”

With COVID-19 looming over not only America but the entire world, many businesses, workplaces, and schools have been shut down out of precaution, leaving essential workplaces to fend for themselves.

While Wittenauer said she does not consider Chipotle essential, she does appreciate using it as an excuse to escape.

“I mean [working’s] fine,” said Wittenauer. “I like my job, and I love my coworkers, so it’s nice to be able to get out of the house and see other people while still getting paid. [Plus] it’s not just the money, it’s the little bit of normalcy I still can experience.”

COVID-19 has come with many financial benefits for essential workers. From Wittenauer’s 10 percent raise at Chipotle to senior Giselle Flores’s bonuses on two checks at Walmart.

However, Flores said that even with the small benefits, she works because she knows she is staying healthy and she recognizes the necessity behind her workplace.

“I know for a fact that my job is essential because it’s a grocery store,” said Flores. “People need food and water to survive, so it makes sense that we’re still open.”

Flores said what bothers her is when people visit Walmart for irresponsible or nonessential reasons.

“People are being careless and avoiding the lock down,” said Flores. “They come in because they’re bored and don’t realize they could be spreading the virus or getting it. They also come in to buy nonessential things like paint, plants, housewares, etc.”

Flores also said that several precautions had been made at Walmart for the sake of not only their customers’, but their workers’ safety.

“We get our temperatures checked before clocking in, and we are given masks and gloves. At the end of the night, we deep clean all the registers, and they have also placed a plastic screen between us and the customers at the registers,” said Flores.

While Flores said she is a little anxious about the situation and working, she plans on staying at Walmart nonetheless.

“I am currently working and have been like normal and plan to do so unless someone [at Walmart] tests positive,” said Flores.

Restaurants and grocery stores are not the only workplaces considered essential. Junior Genesis Dyson currently works at a nursing home and helps care for disabled patients.

“I’ve been working double several times a week,” said Dyson. “Honestly, I don’t really mind it, though, because we need the money.”

Dyson said that while her mother is stressed about her working right now, she has no choice but to continue.

“My mom isn’t happy about it and pushed me to call off until the pandemic is over, but everyone else in the house has lost their jobs due to COVID,” said Dyson.

While Dyson is a bit wary of possibly contracting the virus herself, she said that her workplace has been safe.

“I’m in contact with patients and coworkers, [but] the patients and residents have been taking necessary precautions because they have to,” said Dyson. “I feel safe.”

In the end, working as an essential worker can be financially necessary and stressful as it is for Dyson, yet also enjoyable as it is for workers such as Flores.

“For the most part, I go to work because it’s fun and I enjoy it,” said Flores. “I love being able to work with my friends and see them during this lock down.”

Photo submitted by Giselle Flores.

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