According to NPR, there are now over one million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States. As of Thursday, May 21, 2020 there have been 87,925 confirmed cases of the Corona Virus in Massachusetts alone. From that has stemmed a reported 5,938 deaths. Governor Charlie Baker extended the stay-at-home advisory and closure of non-essential business’ until May 18, 2020. Opening day was first set for May 4th. On May 18th, Baker announced Phase 1 of reopening and, starting on May 25th, some businesses will be allowed to reopen, but under strict guidelines.
“I know pushing these dates back a couple of weeks is not what many want to hear,” Baker said, when announcing the extension. “We all look forward to stepping in front of this podium and saying, ‘We are open for business,’ and we will get there soon.” While a good percentage of the state is still under strict limitations, there is a smaller percentage still working their regular, everyday nine to five.
So what does this mean for the essential employees of Massachusetts? We asked a few workers from around the state what their take on the virus was and how their work environment and conditions have changed. Harlee-Ann Palmer, a sales associate at David’s Fish Market in Salisbury MA says,
“We’ve been a lot busier because we used to mostly supply food to restaurants. Now a lot more people who would order out for seafood are cooking it at home. Retail has been off the charts from the closing of a lot of local seafood places. We only let four people in at a time and it gets really hectic with lines waiting outside.” When asked about the manner of most customers and what other precautions are being taken she explained that many people have been “on edge” and have not been kind to workers. She also stated, “I am constantly washing my hands and wiping down pens and counters. We’re all in the same boat. We do what we can to keep things sanitary, but we know there’s only so much that can be done.”
Another Massachusetts essential employee, Shane Brown, who works as a Deputy Sheriff at Essex County Sheriff’s department, was also interviewed about her work life and how things have changed since the start of COVID-19.
“We’ve had to go on a rotating schedule, we have to wear a mask at all times and gloves and goggles when in contact with an inmate. Also, our procedures have changed due to no courts being open to the public; everything is being handled via teleconference.” Brown goes on to say that, visitations have been suspended for all inmates and they have been allowed two 30 minutes phone calls per week instead.
Massachusetts essential workers of all different backgrounds and places of work are experiencing similar protocol and safety requirements. Everyone is being affected by this.
“I think that it’s important to remember that everyone plays a role in this and that it is all of our jobs to follow procedure, take precautions, and flatten the curve. This doesn’t just affect one group this affects everyone,” Brown believes.
While it may appear many states are not taking this outbreak as seriously as others, Massachusetts, having the third highest percentage of reported cases in the United States, is doing their part in this unprecedented time.