Working in the midst of a health crisis

Essential workers talk about navigating their jobs during lockdown.


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“COVID-19 started off as this little thing we took as a joke,” Taylor Pennington, 22-year-old San Francisco Emergency Medical Technician worker said. “But now, I can’t stress it enough, how real it really is.

Pennington, like many other essential workers around California are risking their health every day due to the lack of safety equipment.

“As an EMT, we have access to certain things, but with equipment running low, we are now required to wear the same face mask with at least five suspected covid patients. And just as that sounds, it’s not the safest,” Pennington said. “And it’s not just us, so many other workers in different fields don’t even have access to gloves, I’ve heard.”

With cleaning warehouses running low on supplies, jobs such as groceries stores are now taking cleaning supplies off of their shelfs to make sure their employees have enough to keep the job area safe and clean.

“Each day we receive a load, I have been told to take three boxes of paper towels, and three boxes of towel tissue, just in case we need to prepare for the worst,” Safeway Store Manager Joshua Susbilla states.

Since the breakout of COVID-19, places around San Francisco have started “social distancing” which requires every person to have at least six feet between them and the person next to them. Grocery stores are now minimizing the number of customers allowed in the store at once.

“Lowering the number of people allowed in the store at once, to me is a great call honestly. Everyone needs to go to the store, and we have no clue who kind of state of health they are in. So having this take place, will at least allow us to notice what is going on around us. They also started this law that reusable bags are no longer allowed in stores at all, which has not been the easiest to get through to people coming in,” says Susbilla.

San Francisco has been stated to stay on lockdown until the beginning of May, but with the numbers only growing higher for COVID-19 cases, there’s no telling what will happen.

“l love my job,” says Pennington, “but I cannot wait until this is all over. Just a few weeks ago, I was asked to work at the airport, screening people who go off of international flights. No one is completely safe from this virus… and that’s the scary part!”