Students work during the pandemic

For students who work during the school year, the coronavirus has made it difficult to keep working. Trends in COVID-19 suggest that the average teen is not at a high risk of experiencing severe, life-threatening symptoms, so many high school students are not very worried about themselves compared to their extended family. 

“I think that the majority of people working end up getting it, [by] majority I mean a lot of people, so I wasn’t really worried about getting it,” said Zach Khennafi, junior and Panera employee. “It’s just me passing it on to potential family who have possible chronic diseases or something like that. Me personally, not really.”

For Rachel Emmiti, senior and Culver’s employee, the possibility of passing the virus on to her grandparents was concerning enough that she stopped working to minimize her chances of contracting COVID-19

“The first two weeks in that mid March and going into the beginning of April, I didn’t work because I was concerned about my safety and mainly the safety of my grandmother,” Emmiti said. “I live with my grandparents and my mother, and I was scared about possibly getting the virus and spreading it to my grandmother and my grandfather because they’re older, and it’s not good for them to have it.”

Emmiti decided that she couldn’t afford to not work at all though, so as the state employed stricter safety regulations, she returned. 

“It got to the point where I was concerned because I kept growing closer to leaving for college and I need that money,” Emmiti said. “I sat down and had a talk with my grandma about me going back to work, and I talked to my managers and everything and at that time they had told me that things had changed, that everyone was required to wear facemasks, gloves, stuff like that.”

Kate Dickman, senior, shares Emmiti’s concern for paying for college, but while Emmiti can work, Dickman works at Les Moise, a sporting goods store that is closed during this time. However, she recognizes that they are more pressing concerns. 

“I can’t work, which really sucks because I’d like money to go to college next year, but it’s more important that we keep people safe,” Dickman said.

As the state begins to reopen, many of the stores will continue to keep safety measures in place, including masks, gloves, and social distancing practices. 

“I think this has been an awakening to Panera and to tons of other businesses where it’s like ‘Okay, we’ve got to step up … making sure everyone is safe, making sure everyone is healthy,” Khennafi said. “I think this will lead to more safety precautions in the future … I think it’s in a way helping advance the protocols.”

I think this will lead to more safety precautions in the future … I think it’s in a way helping advance the protocols.

— Zack Khennafi, junior and Panera employee

While the Stay At Home Order has officially been blocked by the State Supreme Court, many businesses remain closed. 

“Retail is kind of complicated because the whole point is that people come in and they try stuff on and they touch stuff, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to return to work,” Dickman said. “I hope that I can, but I’m not sure at this point.”

The safety precautions have forced business to change how they get their products out to customers. Culver’s has closed their dining area and operates solely on their drive through service. Despite this, business has not slowed.

“I’m still running around and very busy. It’s very busy all the time,” Emmiti said. “It’s so busy that … most of the time, there’s a line down the street towards Corner Bakery … [Despite] all this change, people are still coming and it’s still very busy.”

With this backup of customers, Emmiti has noticed an increase in frustration among customers waiting for their orders. 

“People will be frustrated that I haven’t taken their order and have been sitting. People will get frustrated at the length of the line,” Emmiti said. “But the truth of the matter is, it’s what we have to do. But we’re all adapting and … people should be aware that it’s the best we can do right now.”

On the flip side, Khennafi and Emmiti have also noticed an increase in the gratitude people show them at their jobs. 

“There have been times for curbside pickups [where] people give $20 tips, which is crazy in comparison to usual,” Khennafi said. “And they’re super grateful. They’re like, ‘Oh, thank you for working during this time’ … Just kind of people being happy that we’re open and able to help them out.”

“People have thanked me, after I give orders, people will thank me and be really happy that Culver’s is still around because Wisconsinites love their Culver’s,” Emmiti said.

People have thanked me, after I give orders, people will thank me and be really happy that Culver’s is still around because Wisconsinites love their Culver’s.

— Rachel Emmiti, senior and Culver's employee

For Emmiti, one good thing has come from all of this: a close bond with her co-workers. 

“The pandemic has really brought us together,” Emmiti said. “I guess because we can kind of relate to each other and we struggle together, and we share a lot of laughs and we just bring each other up, that’s kind of the best part.”