With every swipe, a cashier sweats on COVID-19
As the number of COVID-19 cases inch up in Jamaica, Michaelann Mills arrives to work with apprehension. Her hair virtually stands on end as she prepares to go to battle with the prospect of every cough, sniffle, sneeze and wheeze being a missile unleashed with the great unknown.
While there has been great focus on doctors and nurses on the front line, supermarket workers interact with hundreds of customers per day as householders shop round the clock to feed hungry kids stuck at home with schools nationwide closed for a month.
Mills, a cashier at Lee’s Food Fair at Boulevard Shopping Centre in Pembroke Hall, admits that she is scared because carriers of the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, are sometimes asymptomatic, meaning they do not present any of the telltale signs of the infection.
Although COVID-19 has shuttered many organisations, supermarkets have been designated as an essential-type sector seeking to satisfy a ceaseless demand for food and antiviral supplies.
Despite rigid sanitisation protocols, Mills is fearful that she is vulnerable because of the high volume of foot traffic.
“We deal with all types of people every day, and we don’t know what they have. ... Sometimes me really want run from them and they are the ones asking if you wash you hands,” she said.
Mills said that supermarket staff clean counters “as often as possible”, sometimes repeating the procedure after processing every other customer.
The mother of a four-year-old boy, Mills’ heightened anxiety is symptomatic of the new normal of hypercleanliness that has swept Jamaica since the first case of the virus was recorded here on March 10. Since then, 58 other cases have emerged and three COVID-19 patients have died.
Disinfection before entering home
News like that has reinforced a new regime of disinfection before she enters her home.
“I have a baby at home who is asthmatic, so I am not sure if I am going to carry home something to him and they said that they are at high risk,” Mills told The Gleaner yesterday.
She disrobes outside, washes her hands, and engages in further sanitation before coming through the front door and greeting her son. Going through that routine, she said, was worth the sacrifice for safeguarding her boy.
Meanwhile, Goy Chensue, manager at Lee’s, revealed that he has placed markers in the cashing aisles to ensure customers practise social distancing of at least three feet and has also provided hand sanitiser at every workstation.
“It is very important for my employees to keep safe, because without them, we might have to close. If one person catches it, we have to close and then sanitise the whole place again, and we don’t even know when we would open back.
Over at Super Shoppers Fair, a supermarket at the Sovereign on the Boulevard complex, all cashiers donned plastic face shields.
Shevaley Stewart said that while she fears contracting COVID-19, she feels much safer when interacting with customers.
“Everything is all right so far because we are wearing a shield and we have our sanitiser,” she said, affirming that she goes through hand-cleansing routines every 10 minutes.