working in the pandemic

Everyday life as we know it is has changed. The closing of non-life-sustaining businesses has most of us fighting a pandemic we never expected to experience by maintaining social distance from each other. As we hear everyday, this is a hugely important part of the fight against the COVID-19 disease, but we’re also hearing about the heroic efforts of first responders and hospital staff that are on the front lines of caring for patients.

The unique nature of this emergency has turned many of our neighbors into essential workers that are crucial to the situation at hand. These employees are hard at work keeping food, fuel, medicine, and other key supplies available. For example, my brother works in the corporate offices of Giant Eagle, but instead of working from home full time on his regular duties, he also supplements the staff of a store to keep groceries flowing to those who need them.

I never considered it before now, but I’m also one of those essential employees because I work in the activities department of a local senior residence. Now that visitors cannot stop by, myself and my co-workers—including the medical and skilled care personnel—go to work everyday amid the news of more confirmed cases across the region, the country and the world. We have always been there to make the resident’s lives better, but now we’re responsible for keeping them connected to their families and safe from the novel coronavirus.

Where a typical day used to mean making sure that I clocked in on time, now we’re all screened both before and after our shifts to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Just as significantly, it reminds us that each day is no longer typical. Our regular schedules have fallen to the wayside, and helping the residents and their families cope is now top priority. A key part of that is making sure to keep contact between families at home and the residents we care for. It might only be via FaceTime or a phone call—five minutes here and ten minutes there—but staying in contact helps ease people’s minds.

It would be wonderful if we could spend more time with each resident, but we cannot make more hours in a day. We do our best by focusing on keeping the residents (and our co-workers) safe both physically and emotionally. It isn’t a situation I ever thought I’d face, but seeing how people are risking their own health to care for others keeps me hopeful that we’ll all come through this by staying strong and staying together.

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