Student’s work lives change as coronavirus pervades

Senior+Jaimee+Hurless+cleans+menus+at+the+counter+at+Gusano%27s+Pizza+in+Tontitown.+The+pizza+place+stayed+open+during+the+week+of+March+16-20.+

Photo contributed by Jaime Hurless

Senior Jaimee Hurless cleans menus at the counter at Gusano's Pizza in Tontitown. The pizza place stayed open during the week of March 16-20.

The spread of the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19 has been classified by WHO as a global pandemic and is altering the way that the world functions. The economic repercussions of the pandemic are affecting even Har-Ber students, as their places of work are closing or have shorter hours.

“Walmart’s response to the virus was to hammer down cleanliness. We clean more and make sure things are all properly sanitized as much as possible,” senior and Walmart employee Josselin Rivas said. “We now aren’t open 24 hours. We now close at 8:30 and do stocking and cleaning ‘till our shift is over. We have also put a limit on certain items.”

As panic buying empties the shelves, stores struggle to keep up.

“We have such a high demand for things and we can’t get them in as fast as we sell them,” senior and Walmart employee Yamilet Acosta-Diaz said.

Student’s hours have not had to change much in Walmart.

“So far the coronavirus hasn’t really impacted my ability to work. I am working my usual amount of hours that I work everyday,” Rivas said.

However, for students who are in fast food, keeping up business and being able to work regular hours is not always possible.

“The coronavirus has cut down everyone’s hours. Two of my scheduled shifts have already been canceled and my hours will be restricted until further notice,” senior and Dairy Queen employee Avalon Pearson said. “My workplace is doing everything to keep from shutting down, and we have put into place certain safety precautions to ensure our own safety. i.e. wearing gloves when handling money, wearing masks while closing, restricting the amount of food we prepare at a time, etc.”

High school kids decide to work for a variety of reasons, but one is to help out their families by being more economically independent. 

“I decided to get a job because I wanted to be able to buy my own things and what I wanted without having to ask my parents for help,” Rivas said. 

Unfortunately working less also means less income for families, which causes genuine concern according to Pearson.

“My family depends on my income just as much as they do on my fathers. While it is true I am not forced to give them money, I use the money I make to have gas in order to transport my brother and siblings places they need to go,” Pearson said. “And oftentimes my family is unable to afford a necessity that I make up for. It’s dangerous that I’m not making the money I usually do.”

Aside from the financial stress of COVID-19, keeping employees safe is another key concern.

“I’m a cashier and I normally check out people and I’m in contact with a lot of people during my shift. I have been stressed out about the fact that I could get the virus at work because I am in contact with a lot of people and there are days where it is really busy and we don’t have enough people which makes it hard on us,” Acosta-Diaz said. 

As cases of the coronavirus continue to grow exponentially, so does anxiety and fear.

“The virus has made it to where I do not want to go to work because I don’t want to get exposed to the virus and possibly expose my mom and sister.” Acosta-Diaz said. “My mom has a weak Immune system because she has had asthma before and then it’s also hard to think that my sister might get it because she’s pregnant and I don’t want her to be exposed to it. It’s just hard because there are so many unknowns and I think that is what scares people the most.”