Workers in a global shutdown

As a number of businesses are forced to close their doors, some students continue to fulfill essential jobs amidst coronavirus concerns.  

“I work at a pharmacy in town and we definitely have to take more precautions,” said Monica Schmidt, a senior athletic training major and pharmacist at Genoa. “We wear gloves at all times, changing them between each patient interaction and medication fills. We are constantly trying to order more gloves to stay on top of it.”

As a pharmacist Schmidt has been required to continue working while also adjusting to class changes.

“We were supplied with surgical masks for when we come into contact with patients, we’ve also made some of our own cloth masks,” Schmidt said. "There is such a need for them in other health care professions we don’t feel right ordering them.”

As an athletic training student, hands on experience with the sports team has been converted to online scenario-based exercises as students are unable to get clinical hours towards their degree according to Schmidt.

We’re required to be in the training room with the sports teams which has been completely shut down, we’re unable to get clinical hours and hands on training,” Schmidt said. “We had testing we had to do, and we aren’t able to do. Now we have to mimic out scenarios and have written responses as to what we would have done. I’d rather be working hands on, face to face. It’s hard to say how you’d evaluate an injury with your words without seeing it.” 

It is not just healthcare workers who continue to punch into work, certain “essential” retailers in town have avoided total closure as they move to online and curbside services.

“The only thing we are struggling with right now is offering curbside service. With us being in a mall with no real curb to offer that,” said Emily Babcock, senior management major and assistant manager at Shoe Sensation. “Luckily during all this I got promoted to assistant manager so my job was saved otherwise I would have been furloughed with everyone else. Right now its just me and the store manager working.

According to Babcock the shift to online classes was a welcome one.

I was only in three face to face classes in my last semester, two out of my three classes already had all the assignments online,” Babcock said. 

Despite limited customers Babcock said little protective gear is available. 

“The only thing we have is gloves and that’s because my manager likes to stock up on things because she can, we had those before this happened,” Babcock said. “We don’t have any type of a mask we can use. We’ve had Lysol wipes, cleaning sprays and plenty of hand sanitizer…my boss and I pretty much best friends, so I make her do curbside services since I’m not really comfortable. I live with my boyfriend who is an (electrician at Simmons).”

According to Babcock her boyfriend was not told about employees having tested positive for COVID-19.

“He was not told, they were keeping it from the employees,” Babcock said. “I definitely do not think (we are an essential business). I get the whole e-commerce and fulfilling orders but its not for those essential workers who would need shoes.”

While many restaurants have had to close their lobbies, shops like Hardees have adjusted to drive-thru orientated service. 

“I’m one of the only Hardees cooks,” said Shane Wescott, first year culinary arts major at Flint Hills Technical College (FHTC), We are still open for carryout for truck drivers, but we’ve switched to door dash for our deliveries. It makes it a lot easier, there is less stress about handing out the wrong orders.” 

Wescott said that business has stayed about the same as they transition to Summer hours.

We have the same amount of people as a normal night, but since service is picking up again we are scheduling more people,” Wescott said. “Instead of a typical three-person night we have four or five.” 

While some workers have had their hours cut Wescott says his has ramped up to about 38 hours a week. 

“I feel safe since I’m in the kitchen obviously…I still wear a mask provided by the company, we wear gloves like always and wash our hands every 30 minutes,” Wescott said. “I feel pretty good. (My coworkers) are not really concerned but worried about the world ending, so we have to assure them that everything is going to be fine… We have definitely amped up our cleaning procedures.” 

If you are not feeling well and are experiencing either coronavirus or flu symptoms, call (instead of visiting) the Student Wellness Center at 620-341-5222 or Newman Regional Health, 1201 W 12th Street, at 620-343-6800.  

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