First responders are defined as “someone designated or trained to respond to an emergency.” (Oxford dictionary)
Therefore, it makes perfect sense for “first responders” to be EMT, paramedics, doctors, nurses, health care staff, law enforcement, military, and other government entities trained to respond in an emergency. The health professionals have done and continue to do a magnificent job. All love and thanks go out to them and their families for their courage and sacrifice.
It also makes sense that due to the Covid-19 virus, we would be remiss if we all didn’t recognize another essential group of wonderful and courageous individuals. Staff at all the stores listed as essential – especially grocery stores staff. The staff at grocery stores comes in contact with far more people than hospital staff. Therefore, their exposure rate to Covid-19 likely could be higher. Most grocery stores see well over a thousand (1000) people a day and some much more. Remember, these staff started off with little to no PPE. We may have masks on today and stand 6 feet apart; but early one when states were locking down activities and closing businesses, all of us had to go purchase food and other supplies. The grocery store staff had to deal with plenty of people getting well within 6 feet of them without either having a mask or face protection. Additionally, due to the increased demand for groceries, the staff has an increased work load and must do overtime. “One of the biggest mistakes supermarkets made early on was NOT allowing employees to wear masks and gloves the way they wanted to”, said Phil Lempert – supermarket analyst.
It’s overdue for the Federal and state governments to re-evaluate who should also be included as first responders. One of the many reason I am advocating essential staff should be included as first responders is so they can get access to the PPE necessary to protect them from us. Given how many people the staff comes in contact with daily, they should also be considered a priority when it comes to testing. Not offering or demanding mass testing for these first responders are both counterproductive and downright stupid.
- If many of these essential staff are positive for Covid-19, they have the opportunity to spread the virus to far more people than others do.
- If they are negative for Covid-19, they have a much higher chance of becoming positive based on the amount people they deal with on an average day.
- Clearly, many workers are frustrated over being forced to choose between doing their jobs and risking exposure to themselves and their families. If fired, likely they cannot receive unemployment.
To be fair, but perhaps too little too late, some companies have installed plexiglass sneeze guards at cash registers and requiring customers to stand six feet apart in line. Grocery store staff is so overwhelmed and/or too ill to come in, most grocery stores are hiring temporary workers to fill the void.
As of last week, approximately 30 grocery store workers died in the U.S. of COVID-19. Moreover, the supermarket union estimates that about 3,000 staff is sick with the respiratory disease in the U.S. “Careless customers” are “probably the biggest threat” to workers right now, according to Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ union. The customers are not always practicing social distancing.
- In an emergency, often times someone has to do the sacrificing and someone has to be sacrificed. In this case – it’s the same group of people. (grocery staff)
- Most staff has very little to no benefits; therefore, missing work – even if sick – means no pay.
- If the grocery stores workers were any other group of people, more would have been done by now.
- If it’s too radical to call grocery store staff “first responders”, then at least call them “temporary first responders” so they can get the necessary PPE and testing.
- Policymakers, you do not need supermarket conglomerates to tell that their staff, in the pandemic, are first responders and need protection? Shame on you.
- Must our actions or in actions always show that some people’ lives are more important than others?
- Next time you leave the grocery store, say thanks to the staff for their tremendous sacrifice.