Student workers deemed “essential”, “non-essential”


Illustration by Ben Blackie

As the coronavirus quarantine continues, students struggle with loss of income and new working conditions.

Ben Blackie, Reporter

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, new challenges have become prevalent to students. Some worry about remote learning or going in public. However, other students face challenges with being considered “essential” or “non-essential” workers. Places such as grocery stores, fast food restaurants and pharmacies are still open. Alltough many students are still working, some are now unemployed.

“Essential” Workers

Fast food restaurants have been limited to drive-thrus and carry out only. With being limited to these restrictions, places have begun to limit employee hours. Places such as Chick-fil-a and Jimmy Johns have started to decrease store hours and shifts to keep their employees safe. Junior Renee Barr works at Chick-fil-a, and junior Chris Perez works at Jimmy Johns.

“My hours went from twenty-five a week to 6. Sometimes it really annoys me because I still need the money for things. We’re still open, so it just sucks that I can’t make what I normally do,” Barr said. 

The store hours changed to close 2-3 hours earlier, and I feel like I’ve been scheduled a lot fewer hours which sucks. I have to be understanding to the employer especially with everything that’s been happening,” Perez said. 

Fast food companies have also begun to change procedures and rules to keep their customers safe.

“We have several bottles of hand sanitizer around the workplace. We have to wear gloves even for procedures that we didn’t have to before like handling the frozen dough. Also, now we have to wash our hands anytime we come into the kitchen, even if we already did. I also like to use hand sanitizer or wash my hands after every time I check my phone because they can be and usually are really dirty,” Perez said

We’ve started wearing masks and gloves. We also have to wash our hands every thirty minutes,” Barr said.

Students who work at grocery stores and pharmacies have also been affected. Junior Sarah Castle works at Giant Eagle and senior Joesph Saylor works at Thompsons Pharmacy.

Working during this time is definitely stressful. I know that we have plenty of precautions to keep us safe while we work, but it is still kind of worrisome at times. However, I am still able to go in and complete my job to the best of my ability, so I suppose it isn’t too bad”

— Saylor

“We put up plexiglass barriers in front of our registers to separate us from the customer, and now we have to sanitize after every customer. We also made one-way aisles so people have their own path and aren’t around others,” Castle said.

“All people, employees and customers, are required to wear a mask while in the store. We are also required to clean and sanitize our work stations at least once every hour,” Saylor said. 

With policies and procedures changing for each of the stores, customers have had a positive reaction.

Most customers appreciate it although it can be a little annoying having to work your way around the store differently,” Castle said. 

“From what I can tell, most customers have reacted fairly well to these changes. I have not seen any objections to wearing a mask yet,” Saylor said. 

On April 3, Gov. Tom Wolf called for all Pennsylvanians to wear masks any time they leave home.

“It has been really scary seeing everyone wearing masks and how eye-opening it is to make sure we’re being clean and safe about it,” Barr said.


On March 19, Wolf ordered all “non-life sustaining” businesses to close their physical locations. Places such as movie theaters, retail and even some restaurants are some of the businesses that are closed. Junior Ashley Steinbugl works at Kohls, junior Lea Loshl works at Marzoni’s and Gavin Schlecht works at AMC 12 Duncansville.

“For a while, I was still getting paid, but after this week I won’t be. Now I have to apply for unemployment,” Steinbugl said.

Since many place have been forced to close, almost 1.1 million nationwide, many students face unemployment.

“I have filed for unemployment but was denied. The whole process has been a pain. Last week Pennsylvania opened the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) which I have applied for and am waiting to hear a response” Schlecht said. 

Students have also begun to apply to other stores, so they can continue to make money.

“I’ve been looking for a new job because I have a car to pay for,” Lohsl said.

Many companies have yet to announce when they’ll reopen due to the uncertainty of Covid-19.

“They haven’t told us yet when we’ll reopen which sucks because I miss seeing my work friends and meeting new people,” Steinbugl said.

Places like AMC are expecting not to open until mid-June.

“I really miss working. It’s hard to think that I won’t be there until mid-June, but I’m glad that AMC is being as safe as they can and putting us and customers first,” Schlecht said.