Many who decided to work at grocery stores never imagined their job would put them at risk of dying, but that’s the new reality they face as the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow.
For over a month now, grocery stores have been the most populated business as people rush in daily to shop for their essential needs.
In recent weeks more reports have come out of grocery stores stating an employee has contracted COVID-19, creating a greater fear in coworkers.
“I’ve been way more anxious this week,” a cashier at a supermarket in eastern Iowa told The Washington Post. “They’ve started telling people, ‘Go to the grocery store as little as possible.’ And yet I’m going there every day.”
Due to the greater demand amid the pandemic, several companies have increased the hourly pay for grocery store workers, however, some believe it isn’t enough.
“Grocery workers are risking their safety, often for poverty-level wages, so the rest of us can shelter in place,” said John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University, according to The Post. “The only way the rest of us are able to stay home is because they’re willing to go to work.”
Those who work at grocery stores are at a greater risk of being exposed to someone carrying coronavirus.
“The big picture is workers are frightened,” said Marc Perrone, the union’s president, according to The Post. The labor group, he said, is urging states to categorize grocery workers as first responders to give them higher priority for testing and protective equipment such as masks.
“We believe in our health-care professionals being first, but we also believe that if we’re going to slow the transmission, that we need to start flattening the curve in those areas where grocery employees are literally coming face-to-face with thousands of people,” Perrone said.
As a precaution, many stores have implemented new guidelines for the safety of shoppers and employees.
H-E-B has placed decals on its stores’ floors to indicated proper social distance. The Texas-based grocery store has also put up sneeze guards at registers to help protect its employees.
Target is supplying its employees with face masks and gloves to wear while at work.
Kroger and Walmart have recently limited the number of shoppers allowed inside its stores at one time and are testing out one-way aisles at some of its stores.
“There are things they could have done to better protect us, sooner,” a woman who has been working at a grocery store for 12 years told The Washington Post. “It’s a scary feeling to be around so many people and then come home to my family."