“I feel like I am constantly needing to wash my hands and my clothes” : UWL students on working during a pandemic


Photo retrieved from Gunderson Health System website.

Liv Swanson , General Assignment Reporter

On March 25, Gov. Tony Evers put Emergency #12 Safer at Home Order into effect in order to contain the spread of COVID-19. This order halted non-essential businesses and put social distancing guidelines into place. Businesses such as restaurants, bars, libraries, and salons were impacted and forced to close or move to take-out or delivery options.

While the closing of non-essential businesses has led many students to face a reduction of hours or loss of employment, others have been continuing to work essentially during the outbreak. The Racquet Press reached out to three students from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to discuss their experiences working at essential jobs.  

Lauren Nash, UWL freshman

Nash works at a grocery store in her hometown and has experienced changes at her workplace after the COVID-19 outbreak.  

The store now closes an hour earlier than usual, and staff is required to wear gloves behind the counter and optional face masks at the register. The cleaning and sanitation processes have also been intensified to fit COVID-19 guidelines.  

Nash said trying to balance working during the outbreak and attempting to finish her 18-credit semester online has been stressful.  “Because we are so vital and have to provide food for people, I feel bad complaining about trying to balance everything,” said Nash. “But it gets really overwhelming sometimes, I never have time to just relax and focus on one thing at a time.” 

Nash said she also worries about her, and her family’s, health as she travels to and from work. 

“I feel like I am constantly needing to wash my hands and my clothes,” said Nash. “I don’t want to put anyone in danger or cross-contaminate anything. I’m just really focused on getting through the semester and staying healthy.” 

Helen Clark, UWL freshman 

Clark has transferred from an Onalaska Kwik Trip to one near her hometown after moving home due to COVID-19 restrictions.   

Since she has transferred home, Clark has worked more hours and has seen the company increase employees’ overtime limits. “We’ve had a couple of co-workers be quarantined because they had contact with [COVID-19],” said Clark. “So, because of that, they’ve been increasing our overtime limits so we can work more hours and cover those shifts.” 

She said Kwik Trip has increased sanitary precautions, and some services have changed, such as the removal of self-service stations like roller grills or coffee areas.  

“Every hour we have to do a sanitizing checklist where we wipe down every surface that gets handled by customers,” said Clark. “Our entire duty list has been cut in half because all of the things we normally have to do have been restricted by the Wisconsin Health Department.” 

Clark said learning to balance online classes and her 28-hour weekly work schedule has been hard and working during the pandemic has started to affect her mental health.   

“My anxiety has been really high because we don’t have masks or anything and with all the shortages it was hard to get hand sanitizers for all the workers at the beginning,” said Clark. “Working late shifts and then having early exams is not ideal. This definitely isn’t how I expected to end freshman year.”  

Hannah Boland, UWL freshman

Boland, who works as an assistant at the Vernon County Landfill, said she was lucky to be able to continue to have a job during the outbreak and has been able to pick up more hours after the transition to online classes. 

“I wasn’t able to work a lot when classes were face-to-face,” said Boland. “But now that things are online, I am able to fit more hours into my schedule.” 

She said since she works in an office, not much has changed besides the public now being prohibited from entering. “No one is allowed in the building besides employees anymore. We only had six people in the office anyways so everyone who is inside the building social distances.”  

Boland said it was odd going back to work during the pandemic and the entire atmosphere felt different.   

“Things are so weird and crazy right now, we are all trying to figure out what to do and how to feel at least somewhat normal,” said Boland. “I just hope everyone keeps following the rules so we can eventually get back to life.” 

To learn more about the extension of the Emergency Safer at Home Order, visit https://evers.wi.gov/Documents/COVID19/English_SaferatHomeFAQ.pdf 

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