The unsung heroes of the ongoing coronavirus crisis are the nurses, grocery clerks, and delivery drivers slogging through amidst angry customers and precarious conditions.
Below you’ll see a video making the rounds on social media of a fracas that broke out at an unidentified San Francisco Safeway on Sunday night some 24 hours before the COVID-19 shelter in place orders went into effect. The tweet has since been deleted, but scraping tools show us the original post read “I went to Safeway today to get something small and a violent fight broke out that led to people throwing wine bottles clear across the store,” and “People are in hysterics right now and it’s getting more and more unavoidable.”
Things are getting rough out there for shift workers at businesses classified as “essential” during the ongoing outbreak and shelter in place orders. Today the Chronicle brings us the story of these low-wage workers who are “terrified” but “working because they feel like they don’t have a choice.” They speak with baristas, Target retail cashiers, and a Michael’s craft store employee (which is somehow essential?), who are not only overworked, but doing the opposite of social distancing by coming into contact with hundreds, if not thousands of random people as the virus invisible spreads.
“I would be the one to bring this into the home if I did get sick,” an anonymous Peet’s barista told the Chron. “It could get my mom extremely ill or even kill her.” But that worker is still on the job, unable to afford time off.
Trader Joe’s won’t let us wear gloves, they won’t give us hazard pay, and they won’t give paid sick leave for high risk workers. They HATE unions and bully people who express valid concerns. Exactly how ‘worker-focused’ does this company think it is? https://t.co/u9pDVgOOBb— Trader Joe’s Union (@TraderJoesUnion) March 19, 2020
Trader Joe’s is taking some particular heat today, on the heels of a Buzzfeed report that their cashiers are not allowed to wear gloves. The grocer chain did respond positively to employee requests for hazard pay, as the company is making bank right now, but they still have not budged on the incredibly sensible step of gloves. “We've had customers yell at us while on our own shifts... for not wearing gloves on register,” an anonymous TJ’s cashier told Buzzfeed. “When we try explaining that it's because we're not allowed, they only get more upset.”
On the medical care end of this, we’ve probably all seen some manner of unattributed social media post purporting to have information from a nurse about how the virus is flying all over the hospital, that the government is dishonestly keeping the count low, and that we’re just days away from unprecedented body counts. All of this may be true! But on a human level, we saw a UCSF doctor test positive over the weekend, and KRON 4 tells us that nurses are up in arms over the lack of precautions and protective gear at Bay Area hospitals.
Friend sent me this video, where Trader Joe’s in San Francisco is now metering people to grocery shop. Line to get in is now wrapped around the block pic.twitter.com/lzqmX5JFMR— Adam Henry (@itsadamhenry) March 19, 2020
So we’ve got to raise a toast for all of the delivery drivers, grocery clerks, grocers, hardware cashiers, dry cleaners, and others who are not only made to work through this harried period of frenzied clients and customers, but also especially exposed to catching the deadly virus themselves. Tip them a little extra if you can, or at least take into account that they may have just had wine bottles thrown at them.
Top image:@Ali_Enami via Twitter