Will the ‘new normal’ only worsen the pandemic?

Sarah Buchmann

Photo: Unsplash
Food service employee works in COVID measures

Working is hard. 

And working in the time of a pandemic is even harder. 

I started working at Panera when I got back on campus this fall, and while I am grateful to be working and making money, I am starting to worry if I am really doing my part for our community. 

By working and earning money, I am putting myself, my friends, my roommates and my family at risk. 

I was not one of the people who got a stimulus check, and I was not able to work my usual summer job at a restaurant. 

I was scared to bring the virus home to my family: a twelve-year-old boy, an eighty-year-old grandmother and a couple of other medically at-risk members. 

Now that I am back on campus and no longer interacting in person with my family, I feel free to work again. 

But I am also coming in contact with a lot more people: strangers and coworkers, who each have their own network of strangers and coworkers. 

Not to mention, I have two in-person classes, I live in a sorority house with 27 women and I run an a-cappella group that meets once a week. 

My circle of contact has gone from my three immediate family members to practically all of Bloomington. 

With a roommate who has had health issues and is immunocompromised, I constantly worry about bringing the virus home. 

Granted, I get my temperature checked at the beginning of every work shift, I constantly check my symptoms and I have not been in contact with anyone who has had any symptoms, but this pandemic is a constant anxiety for me and many others. 

I wear my mask and I try my best to keep my distance, but is that really enough? 

When I go to the Grab ‘n’ Go, I try to stay away from the people in line before me, but that does not mean that the person behind me will do the same. 

I work in the drive through at Panera so I’m constantly touching credit cards, money and passing food back and forth between the production line and waiting cars. 

Not to mention, the drive through area for workers is pretty crammed, so social distancing isn’t always possible. 

I am trying my best to function within this pandemic society, but the uncertainty of safety is terrifying. 

I heard someone say that we are not going to return to “normal” society, and that living through the pandemic and ignoring the virus is our “new normal.” 

I am just as sick of hearing the words “the new normal” as the next person, but does that really mean that we have to accept the pandemic? 

By working in a public space, catering to consumers and coming in contact with over 200 customers a day, am I really doing my part to solve the virus, or am I just contributing to our “new normal?” 

I am trying to find a way to live in this world and pay for my needs and wants, but if I am putting my friends and roommate at risk, I am not sure it is worth it.