Empty parking lots, quiet streets and vacant school buildings are just some examples of the visible impact of COVID-19. In an effort to reduce the number of cases worldwide, citizens are only allowed by law to visit essential businesses. Among these, the most prominent include grocery stores and medical facilities.
Locations such as Cancer Health Treatment Center have made changes to meet government requirements. Lab Manager Suzanne Picioski has implemented regulations to maintain the health and safety of patients.
“In order to comply with the CDC regulations, we are limiting the amount of staff at our facility, asking patients to call before entering the building, taking temps of patients and guests at the door, limiting guests to one per patient for office visits and no guests are allowed in the infusion area,” Picioski said. “We are cleaning every piece of equipment after every patient and maintaining social distancing in all areas of the clinic.”
In addition to taking precautions to foster protection for individuals who come to obtain treatment, the workers themselves must be sure to preserve their own well-being as well.
“Every employee is required to wear a mask. Gloves are worn by those employees who have direct patient contact,” Picioski said. “We have implemented social distancing in our break rooms and throughout the clinic. Plexiglass has been installed in the secretary areas to provide additional protection.”
Working in a healthcare environment for extended hours of the day can raise concern in the state of a pandemic. Upon completion of the workday, Picioski engages in cleansing activities to prevent the introduction of potential germs in her home.
“I make sure that I remove my uniform prior to entering my home,” Picioski said. “I wash and dry my uniforms separately. I do not bring my work shoes into the house.”
The current conditions of the world may pose obstacles in the workplace. Picioski has found that the option to work from home has brought about difficulties.
“The greatest challenge has been having some employees working from home and others working at the clinic. This has created a divide in the workflow,” Picioski said. “Being able to communicate effectively has been a struggle too.”
Senior Adena Daniels has seen the influence of the virus upon her place of work as well. Like many other grocery stores, Strack & Van Til has had to make arrangements according to the public health and safety recommendations.
“Strack’s has been limiting the amount of customers from the same homes that come in. Normally, we’ll only admit one person per family or one person per household,” Daniels said. “There’s only so much we can do to monitor that, but that’s what we’ve been doing in terms of customer limitation. We’ve also been sanitizing carts right after people return them and everything, so wiping them down with Clorox wipes and things like that.”
Along with the disinfection of surfaces, customers are no longer able to obtain certain food samples or access baked goods on their own.
“I know that we’re supposed to be limiting samples and things like that, not really giving out samples at the deli,” Daniels said. “They are also not really having any of the self-serve type things, so all of the doughnuts are pre-packaged where you can’t choose what doughnuts you want.”
Similar to Cancer Health Treatment Center and many other businesses, Strack & Van Til employees are required to wear face masks. Daniels believes that masks can only provide protection to an extent depending on how many people actually wear them.
“Face masks only do so much on the receiving end because if somebody you’re talking to isn’t wearing one and they cough, that’s not going to prevent you from contracting anything,” Daniels said. “Microorganisms can still get in your eyes or on your face or anything like that. Wearing the face mask, if you sneeze or cough, it’s not going to hurt anybody else.”
All public locations have the potential to contain the coronavirus. Simply touching a surface in such circumstances can be hazardous. As a result, Daniels takes action to remove any harmful bacteria after leaving the store.
“Every day, I’ve been sanitizing my phone and the house door. Pretty much anything that I touch during the day, I sanitize right when I get home,” Daniels said. “I have also been making sure to Clorox my keyboard and things like that so that I’m not setting myself up for worse circumstances later. I’m washing my hands on a daily basis and just making sure that I practice regular precautions.”
Despite widespread information and increasing panic regarding COVID-19, Daniels has seen a negligence of precautions by incoming shoppers.
“While there’s less customers in the store, it’s still kind of baffling how little precaution is being taken by customers and consumers,” Daniels said. “I understand that not everybody can abide by these schedules or maintain these practices, but it’s still something to be concerned about. Not to mention, there’s still a significant number of children brought into the store by their parents or whoever. I understand that single mothers don’t really have a choice, but it’s still a lot and kind of is sad to see. It’s difficult to go to work everyday and see people not practicing regular precautions.”
Though it may not seem like it at the moment, Daniels believes that there is a lot to be learned from these current events.
“I think there is a lot we’re learning in our given circumstances. From a socioeconomic standpoint, it’s really quite jarring how everything condenses and how everything is boiled down to grocery stores and hospitals,” Daniels said. “There are opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of ‘importance’ of a job. A grocery store is considered of the same level as a gas station employee. It’s hard to think about because grocery store employees are just as important, if not more important, than half of the job pool. It’s more of a lesson to be more tentative about everything; to think more about what we’re putting our money into and why.”
Wittenberg Village is another example of an essential business at this time. Senior Kiersten Peña works as a certified nurse’s assistant (CNA) at this long-term care facility.
“Ever since March 13, we have implemented a ‘no visitor’ policy. We haven’t allowed any nonessential visitors such as family members just looking to hang out,” Peña said. “They can’t come. The only type of visitors we have allowed are emergency first responders, like EMTs and ambulances. Family members who are allowed to visit are only allowed if the resident is close to death, and even that might be changed now. Also, CNAs and hospice nurses are allowed in as well.”
Considering the demographic of nursing homes and the fatality of the virus, employees must regard the health and safety of residents as much as their own.
“Every single employee has to wear a mask at all times in the building,” Peña said. “If there’s an activity that involves them (residents) going in the hall or if they have to leave their rooms to go to the bathroom, they have to wear a mask as well. Or if we’re providing direct care, they have to wear a mask because we might get in their face. They might cough on us, or we might cough on them.”
There are some cases in which employees have to take greater precautions. Peña recalls a time in which she had to put on extensive protective gear.
“The cloth masks used to be allowed, but now we have to wear surgical masks or N95 masks in order to preserve our own health,” Peña said. “In certain rooms, we have had to completely gown up. We have to wear a gown, mask and gloves to go into a room. There was one instance where I had to wear a face protector.”
To avoid further contamination of the public or their own homes, Wittenberg Village employees have adopted a system of refreshing and discarding.
“What we’ve been doing now is getting a brown paper bag at the beginning of our shift that contains a fresh mask,” Peña said. “We will wear that and whenever we go on breaks, we put the mask in the bag. We put them back on once we get done with our break. When our shift is over, we put the mask in the bag and discard it in the trash so that we’re not taking the potential pathogens on the mask into our homes or the public.”
Due to staff efforts, Wittenberg Village has seen a limited number of COVID-19 cases.
“So far, we haven’t had any cases at least in the healthcare part,” Peña said. “There has been a case in the assisted living part, but the part that I mainly work in (long term care), there have not been any cases. That means we’re doing our job.”
Peña has seen the effects that the modifications have had on the residents.
“In terms of their (residents) mindsets towards things, I know a lot of them are disappointed that they can’t participate in big group activities because that’s not proper social distancing,” Peña said. “A lot of them are disappointed that they can’t go down to the dining room to eat meals anymore because that’s not social distancing. I found that quite a few of them are getting depressed.”
Sometimes, the residents have to be taken to the hospital which can put them at risk. To combat this, Peña and other employees have established a routine practice.
“We take our residents who have gone to Saint Anthony’s and are returning to a specific hall and monitor them for symptoms,” Peña said. “None of them have had it so far. We’re just keeping them there just in case they may have come in contact with it. We’re keeping them there for at least a week and then after a while we’re sending them back to their regular hallways.”
For many newer establishments, this is the first outbreak to enforce such regulations. Wittenberg Village is familiar with this process due to previous infectious diseases.
“This isn’t the first time Wittenberg has had to have some sort of lockdown on the building,” Peña said. “There was a flu outbreak not too long ago and we had to close all the units off from each other. No visitors were allowed for a while. They couldn’t go down to the dining room, just like now. We weren’t required to wear masks everywhere. We had to wear gowns into some rooms, but not many. This isn’t our first rodeo with a breakout of some type of disease.”
Regardless of the type of business, these organizations are doing what they can to provide services and promote public health. According to Daniels, there should be just as much emphasis placed upon the concept of social distancing as any other health precaution at the moment.
“It’s not really a joke. Social distancing is something we need to practice just as much as washing your hands or sanitizing things like doorknobs and your phone,” Daniels said. “It’s very much an important practice and it’s hard to stay motivated when it sounds like not everybody is doing as much as you and your co-workers might hypothetically be doing.”