Coronavirus survey comments: What workers fear in their own words

A firefighter-paramedic puts on protective gear to demonstrate the decontamination process to medic units in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
A firefighter-paramedic puts on protective gear to demonstrate the decontamination process to medic units in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

A recent Dayton Daily News survey drew more than 200 responses from employees working through the coronavirus pandemic. Already fearing contracting COVID-19 in the workplace, few wished to give their names out of fear of reprisal. While not publishing the names of the workers or their employers, here is a selection of the accounts from various jobs and professions that illustrate the unease many are having with reporting to work every day.

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Building supply company employee: "The store is busier now than ever. I have had customers say they are glad we are open because they are bored. People are just going there to get out of the house. They are buying supplies for projects — nothing essential."

Construction worker: "Nobody takes social distancing seriously. No signs posted, no sanitation guidelines, portable restroom, no hand sanitizer. More than 10 people in a house sometimes."

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Discount store cashier: "They just need to shut the city down for a while for real. We got people who are still out buying nonessential things. It's not fair to us risking our lives to stay open when we see the same faces that come in our stores daily. I am concerned about our manager and assistant manger's health because of their age. But at the same time, we don't know who carries the virus when they come in and out of the stores. Period. It's not fair to us or the community. I think there should be set days to be able to go out … We are risking our lives being out here and it's not fair. They just need to shut the city down, maybe people will take it more seriously."

Manufacturing company employee: "I'm 67 and have COPD and high blood pressure. I'm afraid because of my age and my COPD that my chance of getting coronavirus is like 100%. My workplace has 100-plus people, not everyone follows the rules. No temperature is taken unless you ask for it. I'm concerned for other co-workers who have health issues. My company let me take a leave of absence with pay March 23 but that ends April 1. I have to return April 2. I'm so afraid and really don't know where to seek help. I really don't want to go back!"

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Restaurant cashier: "We are doing no-touch takeout, but 80% of the customers — even though we strictly tell them no — will still try to come into the store, or will try to stand outside of the store. Also, if the food is wrong, we have to correct it, which involves taking the food back, which could still have germs on the bag or the box. Our work washes hands every 30 minutes and cleans, but it still makes me nervous that the customers are not listening to the rules that have been set by us and the governor."

Dispatch call center employee: "We are in a horrific bind here. If we walk out and quit, then we have no support for our families, no income, no job during this unforeseen time. If we stay, we are at risk to not only exposing ourselves and getting the virus, but our families and loved ones as well."

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Building supply company employee: "I am told I am an essential worker and must report to work despite the circumstances. I am happy to serve my community in times of need but the stay-at-home order is not being followed at all. We have walkers who are here just to make laps inside the building, moms and dads with their children running all over the store, elderly who are given no priority, teenagers and groups just hanging out, and management who is telling us this is all a joke. They are purchasing paint, mulch, flowers — very few essential items! They refuse to adhere to the six-foot recommendation despite signs, tape, etc. We are making record sales on a daily basis and our corporate offices are encouraging this behavior."

Plant worker: "The majority of people I work with are minimizing and downplaying the risk to ourselves and our families, and even management and HR have responded flippantly to my concerns. I am deeply concerned for the safety of my family, who are immunocompromised, and for my financial security if I'm pushed into choosing between my job and the safety of me and my family. I am also concerned about losing my health insurance if that happens.

“It is my hope that stories like these will reach the governor and make him reconsider the wording of the order so that businesses like mine cannot keep their doors open through technicality. It is clear to me that these businesses value the almighty dollar more than the lives of their employees and the public in general. It’s my opinion that we are long past the time to politely ask businesses to comply.”

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Transportation agency worker: "People that have jobs that could be done remotely (from home) are not being allowed to. 'If you're not sick, you are expected to be at work.'"

Fulfillment center worker: "We have continued to work side by side with hundreds of other team members. No changes have been made other than 'additional cleaning' and break-room doors propped open. We are being paid more to come in, which makes it worse because sick people come in just for the money."

Car wash employee: "Trying to understand how a car wash has been deemed an essential business. Stating they are 'washing COVID-19' off of cars?"

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Landscape company employee: "I don't feel they are keeping things clean enough — tools, keys, tablets, door knobs, truck interiors. No hand sanitizer available in the warehouse. They keep looking for the loopholes to stay open and will not let high-risk people stay home, like myself.

Medical group scheduler: "People too close together, non-essential business as we don't do anything but busy work."

Nursing home employee: "They have locked up our gloves, gowns, and masks, our PPE, and only give each shift a certain amount and are telling us we have to reuse them and when we run out to use garbage bags as our gowns."

Craft store employee: "We have no cleaner or sanitizer and there are way too many people still coming in for things that are not essential and we have to work."

Fast food restaurant employee: "I deal with hundreds of people every day, still I don't know who is sick and who isn't."