Essential, front line workers share their pandemic experiences

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– A candid conversation gave front-line and essential workers a space to share their experiences working in restaurants, medical clinics and factories during the pandemic.

They talked about everything from keeping up with social distancing demands at work to having enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies during a Zoom panel hosted by the Michigan chapters of For Our Future and We the People.

“We ran out of supplies so many times,” says Jess Matthews, a certified medical assistant. “We haven’t been able to keep stuff clean well. It’s just been a real hassle trying to keep everybody safe.”

Even off the clock, she says the pressure was still on.

“It was just difficult in general because you have to stay away from family members. My daughter’s really lovey, she wants to hug me a lot,” Matthews says. “And I have to stay away from her and not touch her, and sanitize everything.”

Some workers say they’ve struggled to grieve during the pandemic for those who died from the virus.

“You’re losing people and you’re unable to process it,” assembly plant worker Ashley Lewis says. “You’re unable to really have a full-out funeral or pay respects properly. It just changes how you’re affected by things, and people are losing people left and right.”

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the black community nationwide including here in Michigan. Black people make up 14 percent of the state’s population and roughly 40 percent of positive COVID-19 cases. For these workers, they say it’s especially hard to see first hand the number of Black Michiganders who suffer because of the virus.

“Just to know that it was people like me, look like me, didn’t make it,” says Quran Calhoun, senior lead at Fight for $15. “Didn’t see their family members no more, you know. How it might seem minute to some.”

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