Students decide between COVID-19 and cash

Julia Weinrod

Complaints about jobs usually revolve around feeling bored or hating the boss. These days, however, thoughts of viruses and personal protective equipment prevail. Wilson students who are employed right now are dealing with these struggles and balancing their desire to work with their concerns. There are many pros and cons of working during a pandemic, considering the obvious health risks involved. Some have quit their jobs because they do not want to contract COVID-19. On the other hand, some students must work because their families need the income. Others can make the choice without financial pressure.

Felix Garland graduated from Wilson in June and has since been working at Radici Market in Capitol Hill as a barista. He took a break for safety reasons at the start of the pandemic, but said, “when I ran out of money, I decided to go back to working.” He is currently taking a gap year and is saving money to travel and go to college.

Certain types of jobs and industries remain safer than others. Independent work with low contact with others is the safest. Retail and restaurant work is riskier than most jobs. Garland said that he feels uncomfortable working in a restaurant—specifically operating the cash register, which forces him to interact with customers and handle cash. “I wash my hands after dealing with every customer and avoid touching their hands, but I would definitely feel safer with less customer interaction.”

Senior Molly Lindblom works as a lifeguard in Maryland. She said, “I was worried about my health as I worked with a lot of college kids that partied.” She mainly works outside, but masks are not worn at all times by her coworkers. However, she was motivated to stay because her salary was increased. “Now [I] get paid $15 an hour instead of $9.10, so the risk is worth the pay.”

Junior Caroline Grove has returned to work at Brandy Melville, a clothing store in Georgetown. Brandy Melville is a very popular store so a large number of customers come in and out of the store each day. She said she was concerned about getting her family sick but also that “returning to work gave me a feeling of purpose.” This is one important factor influencing teens’ decisions to return to work, other than needing money or work experience.

A balance must be struck between the safety of DC residents and encouraging economic growth by working for and purchasing from businesses. Not all those who want a job can get one right now—businesses that have reopened are operating at limited capacity, and as of August 2020, the unemployment rate in DC was 8.5 percent. DC has not been spared from the economic setbacks that the world has faced this year. As the city recovers, residents must decide how comfortable they are working, shopping, and dining at DC’s stores and restaurants.