As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, students who hold jobs in retail, business, food and other places have been affected significantly. With many stores, businesses and restaurants closing due to safety concerns, some have been laid off, while others are working more hours than average.
While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ordered the majority of retail businesses to remain closed until April 30, he has allowed “essential businesses” including grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and take-out restaurants to remain open.
Students working at grocery stores are especially impacted, with many people rushing to get perishables and other household items, often leaving empty shelves. Publix cashier Ethan Rebec (11) remains employed because people still need to buy food.
“My friends and family are worried about my exposure since I work at a high-traffic place,” Rebec said. “I am not allowed to see my grandparents, which is difficult.”
Despite feeling that his health could be compromised, Rebec said Publix is going to great lengths to keep customers safe, including implementing new safety and sanitation measures along with making frequent announcements reminding shoppers maintain their social distance.
“In addition, we have blues lines on the floor to help people stay six feet apart and have someone directing people at checkout to help them stay distant from each other,” he said. “Employees are [also] allowed to wear gloves and facial covers and the registers have a plexiglass shield.”
Rebec said grocery shopping looks different these days.
“The integration with customers has probably been the biggest change,” he said. “It’s really creepy to see everyone wear masks and gloves. There are [also] not as many positive conversations taking place, which is very unusual at Publix.”
Andrew Catti (11), who works at Genna Pizza in North Melbourne, said business has increased significantly, with many more takeout and delivery orders compared to other restaurants that have since closed.
“Many more people have become much more generous by giving us money as tips,” Catti said. “With tips alone I am making double now than I was before COVID-19 was a thing.”
Still, Catti said hes misses his normal work routine.
“Coronavirus has made me stop waiting tables which I loved to do because it’s calm and I get to hangout with the tables,” he said. “Now I am working on phones and it is much more hectic and busy. It’s a very stressful job trying to make sure every order is perfect for the customers.”
Other restaurants have been harder hit. Madison Newcombe (12) has been laid off from her job at Longboard House in Indialantic because of the pandemic.
“We lost a lot of business while we were open,” she said. “Now we’re closed because we’re not an essential business.”
Newcombe said closing the restaurant makes sense.
“Because it’s a little beachside shop, we get a lot of older people coming in which made me nervous because of the virus,” she said. “It’s definitely good that we closed because we were getting a bunch of older people who were tired of not talking to anyone coming [in] and talking to us for a really long time. [They would] maybe buy one little thing just to get them out of the house.”
But that doesn’t mean Newcombe is happy being out of work.
“The reason I had a job was mostly to be saving for college,” she said. “It definitely sucks to not be able to do that anymore.”