The severity of the COVID-19 virus has been discussed and debated for months. In the media. In political and social circles. In many homes and communities. It is unfortunate that some people have not taken this pandemic as seriously as it should have been taken. People have protested about their right to not wear masks. But what about the rights of others to live? We have to share many of the same spaces. Breath the same air. Shop in the same places. Work in the same places. The list goes on. All while placing ourselves and our loved ones at risk of exposure.
We are told to follow certain guidelines by individuals who are not wholeheartedly embracing those guidelines themselves. We have “leaders” who are not leading by example. We have people who are more concerned about the state of the economy than the state of public health as a whole. We have businesses that have lied about the “essential” status by rewording a few words here and there just to remain opened during the lockdown period. When is enough really enough?
The overwhelming disparity between minorities and other privileged persons as it relates to healthcare is astounding. The overwhelming disparity between minorities and other privileged persons as it relates to total household income is astounding. The two are connected because if certain people groups cannot afford basic healthcare, then they are more likely to be at risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.
Despite the amount of individuals who have contracted the COVID-19 virus, there still remains many individuals who are not as concerned about the harsh realities that come along with the pandemic.
Why am I writing about this? Because I am angry. Not upset. But angry. Why am I angry? I am angry because when this whole thing about COVID-19 first began to become a “real” issue, I was concerned about how this would affect the people at my place of employment. We work within close proximity of each other and it is often difficult to practice social distancing. I watched intently to see how my employer was going to respond to the measures slowly being implemented by the local and state governments.
How did they respond? They, like many others, found loopholes within the governmental guidance that defined essential and nonessential businesses and changed some of the company’s vernacular to allow themselves to remain opened. I asked the question, “When did selling luxury handbags become essential?” Others began to ask the same question. I also stated, “We do not know who anyone of us are in contact with outside of this building. Or who those persons are in contact with, or who they are in contact with, and the list goes on. You are asking us to put our lives and that of our loved ones in jeopardy so that someone can buy a handbag?”
We were given the option to come to work, or to follow “stay at home” or “shelter in place” orders. We had to use our vacation and sick time to continue to receive income during this period. Once this was exhausted, there was no alternative except to return to work and face the great uncertainties that remained ahead. I elected to follow the “shelter in place” order because my life and that of my loved ones are more important than someone being able to purchase an overpriced handbag.
This is a map which displays the total amount of COVID-19 cases in the United States as June 8, 2020. Courtesy of the New York Times.
Upon returning, I noticed that the company had purchased masks for the employees. However, wearing the mask was optional, not mandatory. Remember, social distancing is difficult in the workplace, so my apprehension about returning was elevated higher than it already was initially. I observed people intermingling with each other like nothing ever happened. It gave the appearance of things going back to business as usual. And then last night happened.
Last night, at approximately 8:39 p.m., I received a group text from my supervisor. The text was very vague and stated that we should receive communication from the company informing us to come into work at 11 a.m. instead of 6 a.m. I asked if the shift was going to still end at the normal time, to which my supervisor responded yes. I looked for an email. I did not see it until this morning because it was forwarded at almost 10 p.m.
I received a phone call from a co-worker who had stated they had received a vague text as well. The co-worker went on to state that they had received other texts as well from persons who are no longer employed with the company and told the co-worker that someone had tested positive for COVID-19.
I immediately became angry because my supervisor had not mentioned it in the text. I immediately became angry because my company, in my opinion, did not enforce safety guidelines sufficiently. I immediately became angry because the person was last onsite on Thursday of last week, which narrowed down the possibilities of who the individual may be because only two shifts worked: my shift and the weekend shift.
The manner in which the severity of this deadly pandemic is being mishandled on all levels is a demonstration of how much our values as a collective whole have become corrupted.
What does this mean? This means that myself and others could possibly have had face to face contact with or been within proximity to this individual for a couple of weeks. How did I deduce this? Well, according to the “experts”, a carrier can carry this virus for a couple of weeks before displaying any symptoms. So there is this possibility that many of us could have had contact with the person. So, I am angry because my employer was so adamant about remaining opened and following the government’s guidance just enough to receive a pass. This placed hundreds of lives in danger, not to mention their loved ones.
I look at this sequence of events and it infuriates me because throughout the entire narrative, I can see only one thing that was consistent across the board. At almost every level, the one thing that seemed to be important was business as usual. Start the economy even if it costs more lives. Keep the business opened even if it costs more lives. Put together a few empty phrases and call it guidance even if it costs more lives. Throw them a bone even if it costs more lives. As long as we are making money, we will entertain the people who are genuinely concerned. That was, is and will always be the underlying narrative.
So, yes, I am angry. I am angry because they feel as though 12 hours is long enough to engage in a “deep cleaning” process for a building that has many thousands of square feet. I am angry because we are being asked to come in to work at all. Period. This has hit too close to home and we are supposed to go about our day with the “business as usual” mentality?
When do we have time to process the reality of what just happened?