They Will Never Be Held Responsible for the Havoc They Have Created

Illustration: Angelica Alzona/Gizmodo
Illustration: Angelica Alzona/Gizmodo

Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and provide as much detail as you’re comfortable with.

Authors’ identities have been verified, and submissions have been edited for length, grammar, and clarity.

Anon, business manager, Kansas

Financially and emotionally I am unwell. I am one of the people who have been wearing my mask since March due to the fact that I live with my parents, one of whom was working in the covid unit at [redacted] Hospital. I fear daily that I may get someone around me sick and that they may die from the disease. My father has had a co-worker die from the disease at 35 years old. That’s the scariest part of this disease, you never know when someone you know might take a turn for the worst and you will be given no chance to say goodbye due to quarantine procedure.

The place I work for never closed down during the pandemic. The owner has a strong issue with people working from home, believing that no one will do their jobs and initially wanted to furlough everyone. Somehow, due to some persuasion by upper management, we were allowed to work from home for a short period but as the pandemic has worsened we have moved to reopen to in-person classes. The school states that the classes are socially distanced, however, as I walk the halls, I can see people within hugging distance of one another. We are the only school that is fully open within the area. Our upper management decided that it would be optional for people to wear masks up until the city mandate this week so we had students and staff wearing no masks and social distancing was basically a joke. They showed a public face of “we’re in this together” however they then furloughed several employees and brought them back weeks later when they realised they could not get the CARES Act loan money forgiven if they furloughed them.

Beyond this, medically, I have had severe allergies for years and when I contacted my doctor to get a prescription I had previously gotten they insisted that I be tested, as my symptoms lined up with some of covid-19’s. Due to being told to get tested, I was told that I could not return to work for two weeks nor could I work from home due to the aforementioned business owner’s opinion and policy. Now if I do get sick I have very little FFCRA PTO [ed. note: Families First Coronavirus Response Act paid time off] remaining and I cannot work from home.

This company has made me realise that there are bad actors in every sector during this pandemic. We have very little protection right now as the job market is unstable at best. My life has been turned upside down in a matter of months. I bought a used car in December that I now fear that I will lose if we have another economic hit. To everyone out there, please be compassionate. We will get through this if we care for one another and listen to our doctors and medical experts. To those out there protesting the treatment of people of colour at the hands of police, though I may not be out on the streets due to my personal health concerns, you will be honoured and celebrated when this is over.

Jason, healthcare financial analyst, California

In California, nearly all types of workers in the healthcare industry are considered essential. However, unlike other healthcare companies in the area, my company has mandated that all of its corporate employees must continue to work on-site in our offices. Telecommuting is strictly prohibited.

Our social distancing policies have up to this point not been taken seriously by many of my coworkers, and a mandatory masking policy (which is also often left unenforced) was only instituted in the middle of June. Several of our corporate employees have tested positive for coronavirus, and even though we treat covid-19 victims at the hospital, we still hear reports of providers not masking in patient care settings.

I was so concerned about the working conditions that my wife and I decided she and our infant son should shelter at my mother-in-law’s home. I was separated from them for two months, which was the most painful experience of my life. It is difficult to justify missing so much time with my three-month-old son for the sake of a paycheck, and even harder to deal with the guilt. We have since reunited, but the strain it has caused for me and my family is still apparent.

I do feel lucky to be employed when so many are out of work, and I realise there are front line healthcare workers who put themselves and their families at risk to heroically serve the public during the current crisis. But I cannot understand why, of all organisations, a healthcare company would put its employees, their families, and communities at risk when our work can be completed remotely.

My Friend Died From This. How Can You Take This So Lightly?

Are you a frontline worker dealing with new stresses or irresponsible management? Is working (or not working) from home starting to take a psychological toll? How are you coping with reopening? Submit a story using this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story” and...

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Anonymous, furniture quality assurance engineer, Michigan

This entire thing has been surreal to me. We have been taking extra precautions because my mother-in-law is considered “high risk” because of COPD. Luckily, my graphic designer wife has been able to work from home since mid-March. We pulled our son (2-years-old) from daycare mid-March. His grandma (my MIL) was helping us with caring for him anyway, so she just picked up the two extra days a week when we cancelled daycare. Then I started full-time care for him when I was furloughed on March 23rd.

When Michigan’s stay-at-home order went into effect, no one at my manufacturing plant was sure of anything. Luckily, my company assisted us with filing for unemployment, so that was pretty easy. I didn’t need to make a gazillion phone calls or deal with long hold times. I just logged into the website a couple times and was all set. My company even jumped to offer to continue all benefits for employees at their expense (I love where I work!). I am very thankful things went as smooth as they did. I feel super fortunate!

During the 5-6 weeks I was home, I completed projects which I had been putting off. I already had purchased all the materials to finish my baseboard trim and door trim. I used spare wood lying around to set up a built-in bookshelf in my basement (to my wife’s joy!). We also ordered kitchen cabinet paint via Amazon and my wife refinished all our cabinets in her downtime. My lawn has never been in better shape; my garage and car are clean; my trees are trimmed; new flowers are planted.

The best part for me was the ability to see my wife and young child on a regular basis. With her working 8am-4pm daily and me working 1pm-10pm, life had been difficult. I wholly enjoyed this time with my family and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Again, this is not the usual story you hear when discussing the covid-19 pandemic, but I think the world needs some positive experiences as well.

Anonymous, software engineer, Washington, D.C.

Financially, we are both receiving the same salary and we are reducing any unnecessary expenses to save as much as possible in case one of us gets sick or has income loss. We know we are extremely fortunate to be weathering this as well as we have, and I’ve begun a large monthly donation to my local food bank that’s equal to what I would have spent on dining out and the two vacations we cancelled already. I have also been paying our housekeeper, handyman, and others who keep our household running, even though they are not coming to our house any longer.

We are both in risk groups for covid-19 so we have rarely left the house since March 1 except for a few trips to the grocery store. If we have to, we can maintain this for as long as needed. Emotionally, giving up volunteering, social events, and travelling to visit family has been very difficult. My main form of exercise was a 3x week swim class for people with arthritis and I’ve been unable to go because the pools are closed, and I’m not sure I will go back even if outdoor pools open this summer because of the locker rooms, etc. I can tell I’m getting stiffer and moving around is more difficult, so I’m concerned my health will deteriorate the longer we are at home.

I’m also doing all our cleaning, cooking, home repairs, yard work, and other repairs myself, which is taxing on top of a full-time job. (I realise I am extremely privileged to be able to even make that statement.) It is sinking in that we are going to be living with covid for years and I wonder what kind of life it will be for us to be limiting travel and public interaction, and wear a mask every time we leave the house for that long. The only thing that really sparks anger is knowing that our president and federal government could have taken action to stop this and they were negligent. Our president takes instant executive action to force the national guard to gas citizens, but ignored this terrible disease. Unfortunately they will never be held responsible for the havoc they have created, lives lost, lives ruined, etc. That is infuriating and keeps me motivated to do all I can volunteer-wise from home in the upcoming election.

If you would like to be included in a future edition of Sick Days, please use this Google form or send me an email with the subject line “My Covid Story.” Stay healthy and safe.