Essential workers should not be chastised; they’re doing their best

If you’re worried about getting the virus, stay home, or leave at your own risk


Department stores and restaurant employees are required to be masked, gloved or both in order to stay open during the coronavirus shutdown, yet people still feel the need to take their own precautions, regardless of whether or not it inconveniences a business. (Photo by Alex Muegge)

Customers and consumers that take extra measures to protect themselves against the coronavirus when they go out in public settings, should do so in a way that does not inconvenience the employees that are already implementing a company safeguard.

If they truly feel employees at a certain business aren’t doing a good job to mitigate the spread of the virus, they should not shop at that store during this time.

These times are unprecedented. Such a large scale response to a global pandemic has never occurred in human history.

Protecting yourself and others is key. Staying safe and healthy should be everyone’s top priority,  but with the president constantly holding press conferences and governors issuing stay-at-home orders, it is probable that there might be some mass hysteria going around.

I work at Dutch Bros. Coffee, and in order to stay open, employees must wear a company-issued mask that we are required to wash after every shift. I must leave my car with it on and cannot take it off until I get back to my car after work.

Inside the stand, employees who build the drinks must also wash their hands every 30 minutes.

Any barista that interacts with customers can only do so with gloves on.

When we hand our drinks out at the window, we do not hand them directly to the customer, instead we hand the drinks out in a drink carrier. The customer takes the drink out of the carrier, or they can take the whole carrier if they so choose.

These extra precautions are inconvenient, the gloves make sweat drip down my arms in 90 degree heat, and the black mask is no source of air conditioning either. Still, customers feel like they must take precautions to make our job even harder.

Three weeks ago, I had a customer drive up, roll his window down maybe a half an inch, and shout his order out to the line runner who constantly had to ask him what he was saying. The man refused to roll his window down anymore, which made sense, he was worried about contracting the virus. 

A strange thought, considering he wore no gloves or mask.

I repeated his order back to him, though I had to yell because he refused to roll down his window at all this time.

I then held it out on the drink carrier and he rolled his back window down a full 7 inches, reached around back to retrieve his drink from my fully extended, gloved hands.

Ironically, gloves don’t do much to protect against the virus.

According to WebMD, the virus is transferred through droplets formed by coughing and sneezing. Those droplets can reach up to six feet (which is why we keep social distance) and will give you the virus if they get in your eyes, nose or mouth, but not if they get on your hands.

If you’re still touching your eyes, nose and mouth with gloves on, you can get it.

The fact I was wearing a mask protected the customer more than his own attempts at social distancing.

Target cashiers vigorously wipe down their conveyor belts and ATM machines after every customer. They are fully masked and gloved. 

Country clubs that are open wipe down their equipment after each customer use, also fully covered up.

But gloves aren’t the answer, washing your hands is.

This virus needs to be taken seriously, but you can protect yourself in public without inconveniencing employees who have already been trained on how to keep you safe.

If you really do not feel comfortable leaving your house, maybe try staying there.