Experiences of Essential Workers

Jeffrey Yang, Staff Writer

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, five million people ages 16-19 were employed
in 2019. Of which, 1.7 million were working food service jobs as teenagers searched for entry
level jobs. However, the COVID-19 pandemic, forces students to choose between their jobs and
their health. Like many workers in the food service field, many Dulaney students are working
essential jobs and must choose between their safety or receiving a paycheck. However, many
Dulaney students recognize the safety precautions taken at their workplaces and feel as if they
are still working normally under these circumstances.
“It’s crazy that people have been coming in during this time and I’m not entirely sure why we
have stayed open. It’s surprising how customers’ attitudes have changed; they can be rude at
times and even inconsiderate since we can’t have every flavor or all the toppings we normally
would,” said Delaney Bernhardt, an employee at Sweet Frog and senior at Dulaney.
Bernhardt says that all employees are mandated to use masks, gloves, and disinfectant, and to
wash their hands often. Yogurt machines have become employee-use only, instead of the usual
self-serve option. Instead of being a two-person operation, Sweet Frog has opted for solo shifts
to compensate for other employees not risking exposure.
Bernhardt takes advantage of the free time by working on her online schoolwork throughout the
Sophie Slomkowski, a fellow Dulaney senior, has a similar experience working in the bakery
department for Graul’s market. The employees at Graul’s are required to wear masks and gloves
and must clean objects throughout the day. Similar to Sweet Frog, Graul’s has also made
changes to the store.
“Graul’s has many new additions to help with the virus, such as staying 6 feet apart, one-way
aisles, fans throughout the building, and required masks,” said Slomkowski when asked about
the differences in the market.
Both Bernhardt and Slomkowski have had unfortunate experiences with unfamiliar customers
who don’t recognize the necessary safety precautions of going outside. However, Slomkowski
feels safe working at Graul’s as she trusts her coworkers and boss greatly.
Grant Levitt, an employee in the kitchen of Brookside Market, shares this feeling but for a
different reason.
“I don’t feel that going to work is much more dangerous than not, at least for me as an
individual. I’m honored to still get paid at all,” said Levitt when asked about potential safety
concerns in the workplace.

While essential workers are putting their lives at risk every day, many workplaces have adjusted
and adapted to the new normal to ensure that their employees are kept safe. By taking these extra
steps to combat the coronavirus, Dulaney students can continue to work and perform their duties
while sustaining their living. Customers will also have to adapt to these new rules to ensure the
safety and well-being of the entire community.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, more and more workplaces are taking extra steps to promote
the safety of their workers. Only time will tell what this new normal will look like.