Essential business employees work through COVID-19 quarantine

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Photo courtesy of AP Images.

Chloe Strickland, Staff Reporter

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, many citizens of the Coachella Valley have been put out of work due to the mandated shelter-in-place order given by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Grocery stores and food services, however, are among the few businesses that are considered essential and are allowed to stay open.

Evonie Ruiz works in the fast-food industry and has watched her employer, McDonald’s, change their sanitary protocols to prevent the spread of the virus, “When we first walk into work, before we touch anything or have contact with anyone, we have to wash our hands. Gloves are now mandatory, and we have to change them after every 10 cars to prevent cross-contamination.”

Ruiz added that hand sanitizer stations have been installed all around the store to make sure everyone keeps their hands clean.

Stater Bros. employee, Miranda Kelly, assures that they are taking the necessary sanitary precautions, “Employees can wear gloves if we are uncomfortable touching things. We also clean the carts as they come back inside from the lot. We constantly clean anything and everything that people have touched like the keypads and handles around the store.” Kelly also expressed that employees are sent home if they feel or look sick in any way.

The public going in and out of the stores are also doing their part in being sanitary, said Kelly, “Customers are very cautious by wearing gloves and masks. They don’t want to touch the keypad sometimes, so we either do it for them or they use their shirt or tissue to punch in their code and to sign.”

Since the mandated quarantine, grocery stores have given their employees a $2 raise of hazardous pay for working through these difficult and scary times, “I feel the raise is a good way to show appreciation to us still working even though it puts us more at risk,” said Kelly.

The raise is for a limited time only, lasting only a few weeks while the workers are still at risk.

While the grocery stores have given their employees compensation for working through the quarantine, the same does not go for the fast-food workers. Ruiz said her hourly pay has stayed the same since the quarantine as well as her weekly hours. Business has slowed in the mornings but otherwise has stayed the same.

Raise or no raise, Ruiz acknowledges that her health is still at risk, “I know for myself, that I stay clean and wash my hands but I can’t say the same for other people I come into contact with.”

Kelly is concerned for her family but does what she can to prevent bringing anything home, “I definitely feel more at risk and I worry I put my family at risk as well with all the people I come into contact with during the day and what I bring home on my clothes.”

Kelly, who is a new employee at Stater Bros, said she was hired on the spot right before the quarantine started, “I walked in and asked for an application and they hired me after I gave it back to them. I started the very next day,’ she added, “Classes are online and we’re supposed to stay inside, but I have to help my family and make sure we’re able to stay living in a house with food and other necessities.”

Both Ruiz and Kelly are trying their best, along with their coworkers, to follow the necessary sanitary measures at their jobs to make both the customers and the employees feel safe.

For more information on how to stay safe and the virus visit the Center for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.