Lamar University Press Logo

COVID-19 cast shadow over essential worker

As a gas station employee, I’m considered an essential worker. As such, I'm exposed to thousands of germs a day. Money, bathrooms, gas pump handles, door handles and coffee pots, among others, are all hot spots. Hundreds of people touch these items each day. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it was something I had never thought about.

gas pump

More importantly, I’d never thought about bringing these germs back home to my family.

On March 31, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a state-wide stay-at-home order, but in Vidor, almost nothing has changed.

The streets are still active with people roaming town from boredom, getting groceries from stores and taking advantage of cheap gas, filling up cars and boats before fishing season.

As a business, we have made many changes to our daily procedures. Added responsibilities include bleaching gas pump handles every hour and wiping down commonly touched surfaces with special disinfectant wipes every hour. We’re encouraged to wear gloves and change them regularly, and make sure people remain six feet apart.

Despite all these precautions, we’re still exposed daily to the coronavirus. As of today, there are 58 cases in Orange County and there are still people treating it as if nothing is wrong.

In Beaumont, the numbers are significantly higher, and they have seen eight people die from the virus. I’m worried that Orange County will soonfoll ow in Jefferson County’s footsteps if we continue this behavior.

Prior to the outbreak, I can’t say I had ever been afraid to go to work. But, more concerning, I had never been afraid to come home from work — until now.

This airborne virus clings to clothes and as workers prepare to leave for the day, these germs infiltrate vehicles and homes. I must come home and change and shower immediately, lest I risk infecting my brother, my grandmother, and my boyfriend who struggles with asthma.

Every time I handle someone’s money, I wonder if they are a carrier of COVID-19. Every time I touch a gas pump handle, I wonder who has touched it before me. When someone coughs, I wonder if they are sick.

Every day I watch the numbers of those who are infected grow. I wonder how many people have been exposed and don’t know it. I wonder how many asymptomatic carriers are wandering the streets and coming to my gas station just because they are bored.

I sometimes wonder if I’ve already contracted the virus and am just an asymptomatic carrier. I worry about that every night when I lock the doors at work and walk to my car. How many people could I have infected today? That’s the scariest part. Scientists know little about this virus and we, as citizens, know even less.

As a gas station worker who does not have the choice to stay at home, I beg you to limit contact. Come for what you need and leave. Only bring one person into the store. Wear a mask if possible. Don’t just protect yourself, protect others.

I will continue to serve with a smile on my face, because I’m here to help you. But help me continue to help you and stay home as much as possible. We’re in this together.

Category: Opinion