• Factivists

The Stories of Key Workers

A study on the effects of COVID-19 on essential workers

1. One shop assistant in the Netherlands has found themselves working more hours. While they do feel safe at work, thanks to sensible management, a minority of the population are sporting face masks. Sadly, this particular worker has lost a "healthy" family member. Such a harrowing event, combined with extended work hours, has made sitting exams significantly more difficult. Again, this respondent is attempting to attain a sustainable student-work-life balance. In this particular instance, teachers have adhered to the normal school timetable, setting assignments and answering queries online; Dutch schools opened on the 2nd of June. The student-employee concludes: "I hope this shows governments how important healthcare workers are, and [that they] start paying them more", citing recent budget cuts.

2. Lola lives in Ontario, Canada; she is a part-time, non-essential government worker. She is of the view that the government has responded "mostly well", as "some errors were inevitable." As a result of the virus, she has been unable to meet family or friends, and the number of funeral attendees has been restricted - even for relatives. Her management team has "made few errors", and Lola remains confident that she will remain financially comfortable throughout the pandemic. However, her mental health has taken a great toll, as she "already [has] social anxiety", which means "being able to stay home has actually been an improvement". However, on "shopping" days, she finds herself so anxious that she is unable to complete any other tasks.

Lola is in a unique position, as she currently has a tenant renting a room from her. The tenant "had been staying with her mother", but, upon moving into Lola's house, "refuses to follow procedure". As a result, Lola is "Now confined with [her] pets to two rooms of the house." Having been in contact with the same surfaces as her tenant, who moved in after midnight, Lola had to self isolate for 2 weeks. As a result, Lola is "no longer comfortably able to visit the two friends, who live in the other half of [her] house, as one has an immune disorder."

3.. Freyr lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is an employee in a supermarket, therefore rendering her an essential worker. Both her and her boyriend have suffered from COVID-19 symptoms, and recalls how they were "deathly sick for about two weeks, struggling to breathe", as they endured "constant coughing, zero appetite, constant nausea, and no energy." As a result of their illness, both lost 10lbs, after not eating "for almost a week."

As a student, Freyr is receiving "little to no work" online, and exams are no longer taking place. She is uncertain of what her future will look like financially, as her employer has "decided [she doesn't] need as much work as everyone else"; only providing her with work once every two weeks. Despite this, she does not feel "comfortable and safe" in the shop. As has been the case for many, Freyr has felt "very depressed", although is making the effort to go outside every day. She also believes the media have heightened stress and anxiety levels among the public.

4. Julia lives in Chiciago, USA. In March, she too caught COVID-19. This diagnosis was provided by a doctor, although she was denied access to a test, as she was not deemed "high risk" enough. During quarantine, her family were "stuck in less than 700 foot [of] apartment", without a garden. In another part of the country, Julia's sister contracted the virus and was unable to hold her newborn baby "for weeks".

Julia works in childcare: a service that is considered "essential" in Chicago, and she does not have any financial concerns. She also believes believes her management team have taken a "sensible approach" to the coronavirus outbreak. However, many planned events had to be cancelled or postponed. These included: holidays, plans to meet friends and family, a concert, a school trip, and the Boston Marathon - in which her husband was supposed to be partaking.

However, Julia's mental wellbeing has not been particularly affected. She recalls, "I've struggled, and been rehabilitated for depression since 2012, but the pandemic has had no effect on my mental health. In many ways it's nice for the world to hit pause for a while."

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