Essential – absolutely necessary; extremely important.
We all like to think that what we do is important. That if we suddenly stopped doing our jobs, everything would grind to a halt.
If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us it’s that some of us are more essential than others. We may have shown appreciation for these workers in the past, while others may have escaped our notice. Going forward we hope that will no longer be the case. Here’s our list of those who are doing yeoman work helping to get us through this crisis.
Doctors, Nurses, Health Care Workers
These professionals have been on the front lines since this crisis began, risking their lives to save ours. They have worked without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), putting their lives in jeopardy each time they face someone with the virus. Many have been working around the clock, separated from their families, sleeping in hotels or, at times, in their cars, to remain on duty. And don’t forget those doctors and nurses who traveled to help when New York City was overwhelmed with cases.
Nursing Home Care Givers
At least one fourth of the deaths attributed to the virus are happening in nursing homes across the country. Because older people are particularly vulnerable, those who work at these facilities are not only in danger themselves, but they also have a huge responsibility to keep their patients safe. It’s heartbreaking to know some of these elderly men and women will pass away without being surrounded by their loved ones. But the dedicated professionals at these homes do what they can to keep them in touch with family using technology.
When educators return to the classroom after the pandemic is finally over, will communities remember what teachers did during these stressful times? Keeping students engaged online was a challenge. And parents who had to take on some of the hands-on job of helping their children learn began to appreciate all that teachers do. Teachers are woefully underpaid. Will that change when things return to normal? We can only hope.
Police, Fire, and EMT Workers
Public safety remains paramount and those responsible for protecting us are not taking a step back. There is still crime (although, thankfully, not as much), fires, and emergencies where seconds can mean the difference between death and saving a life.
Subways and buses continue to run for those essential workers who need transportation. These vehicles are driven by men and women who keep traffic moving. In New York, the subways are being closed overnight for thorough cleanings. Workers do that to make sure those who board the next day are safe.
The news doesn’t stop whether reporters are covering wars, hurricanes, or a pandemic. Those who write for publications or appear on TV for cable and network news shows are out there keeping us updated. Many of them have been ill with the virus and have returned to do their jobs. And many have been harassed by protestors wanting states to open up. We applaud these journalists for doing their jobs in these stressful times. We will keep watching.
Workers in Meat Facilities
Given a choice, no one would work in a meat packing plant. Because of the crowded conditions in these plants, Covid-19 flooded worker populations, claiming a disproportionate number of lives. And while the corporate giants that own these plants say that worker safety is their number one priority, little is being done to protect them. Worried about meat shortages, President Trump signed an executive order declaring meat plants “critical infrastructure” prohibiting them from shutting down. That order thus protects the meat packing companies from liability claims from employees. Do we need bacon this badly?
With so many of us sheltering in place, we are also producing more garbage. Take out means more styrofoam containers, plastic cups and wrap, cardboard pizza boxes, bottles and cans. Those Amazon boxes pile up. All that trash needs to be taken away and sanitation workers around the country do that job.
The United States Postal Service
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of the Postal Service, a higher rating than any other agency. Despite that rating, President Trump is threatening to defund the agency unless it increases charges for internet shipping companies like Amazon, a hike that would surely be passed along to the consumer. According to the Washington Post, nearly 500 postal workers have tested positive for the coronavirus, 462 others are presumptive positives, 19 have died and more than 6,000 are in self-quarantine because of exposure. In rural areas, people go to the post office to pick up their mail, along with UPS and FedEx deliveries, exposing the single postal staffer to everyone’s deliveries and maybe hundreds of people each day.
Grocery Store Workers
We still have to shop for food and supplies and depend upon workers being there to stock the shelves and help us check out. Stores have taken steps to protect these workers, asking customers to wear masks, putting up plastic partitions, marking the floors for social distancing, and placing hand sanitizer throughout the stores. It’s understandable to be upset when a store runs out of a certain item, but please – please – don’t take it out on these workers! Instead, thank them for all they do.
Pharmacists and Drug Store Workers
One day we hope drugs stores will be able to dispense a vaccine for Covid-19, but until that time, we still depend on these professionals to fill our prescriptions and offer advice on what over the counter medications to take.
While many retail stores remain closed, many more have been open since the beginning of this pandemic. Those working for Amazon, Walmart, Target, and others have still been on the job. Some we can see when we shop, others work behind the scenes preparing our packages for delivery. These workers handle millions of packages a day which places them in situations where they could be infected.
Of course, there are many non essential workers who are suffering during this shutdown. That list includes anyone who works in a restaurant, clothing and other stores, theaters, museums, hair and nail salons, and more. We need them, too, and pray that they will survive until the virus is truly under control.
Top photo: Bigstock