How essential am I?

Mia Raspanti

Asst. News Editor

Photo via coffeeconnection.business.site

The recently announced two-week pause in Rhode Island made Governor Raimondo close down the state, excluding essential businesses. When I think of essential businesses, I typically think of hospitals, gas stations, grocery stores and banks. That is what I believed to be the textbook definition of “essential businesses.”


I work as a barista at a local coffee shop, popularly known as Coffee Connection. Upon the announcement of the pause, I was under the impression that I would be laid off for two weeks. A coffee shop isn’t typically what comes to mind when I think of an essential business. Quite frankly, I don’t think it’s essential at all. I was told by my boss that we would, in fact, remain open. Both the drive-through and front of the house are open. However, we are to only allow 33% capacity inside of the stores at all times, as the main sitting area was shut down as well.


What made Governor Raimondo come to this decision? Obviously the ability to stay open benefits both me and my place of work, as it is a small business, but getting your daily cup of coffee isn’t worth risking exposure to a pandemic. As a coffee connoisseur, I don’t see anything wrong with safely treating yourself to a cup of joe every once in a while, but if you’re going to do it during a state mandated lockdown, you should do it with caution.


The point of the lockdown was to stop the spread of COVID. While at work, myself and my coworkers follow all proper safety precautions. We constantly wear masks and have a protective barrier between us and customers. We regularly wash our hands and sanitize surfaces that customers come into contact with. We are doing our part in order to stay safe during these trying times.


While we may do our part, it doesn’t mean that the customers that I have observed are. The majority of customers wear protective face coverings and social distance when inside the store and use our many hand sanitizing stations. Although, there are also some customers that choose to not take precautions. Individuals will walk in not wearing masks, while others wear masks below their nose, only covering their mouths.


One customer walked in with her mask in her hand hovering above her nose and mouth. Immediately alarmed, I asked her to put her mask on correctly and was instantly given an attitude. She proceeded to completely remove her mask and order her coffee, slowly inching closer and closer to the cash register. This is just one of many experiences that makes me feel uncomfortable being an essential worker.


It is clear and proven that the continued opening of businesses has caused customers to fall under the impression that they shouldn’t take lockdown seriously. We are in a “pause” but the majority of businesses around the state are still open, not following precautions, and are acting like COVID isn’t the new normal. It is up to those acting responsibly during this time to lead by example and show, because businesses that aren’t typically “essential” are open doesn’t mean a duty to act as a responsible citizen disappears. You owe it to yourself, those surrounding you and to the general public to act as a model and compilable citizen during these times.


Being employed during this time is something I am so grateful for. I am given the opportunity to make money and follow a consistent work schedule in a healthy and responsible work atmosphere, and most people aren’t that lucky. The pandemic, along with the current state of our country, has put millions of people out of work. I am not taking my job and blessings for granted, however, I am choosing to call out those who are taking us essential workers for granted. To walk into a business deemed “essential” without a mask during a pandemic and statewide pause, in itself, is selfish and irresponsible. To potentially risk the health and safety of the essential workers who are choosing to serve you during this time, too, is selfish and irresponsible.


So please, if you are going to support a small business that is open during this time, wear a mask and social distance. These are minor daily practices that take little to no effort that will keep you and everybody that surrounds you safe.


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