MHS Students Fill Essential Roles

Amelia Knopp, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of essential workers and the vital services they provide to the public. Essential occupations include positions in health care, government, transportation and critical retail, such as grocery sales. 

As COVID-19 wreaked havoc around the country, some MHS students stepped into these essential positions in the Manhattan community. Junior Bentley Murrell has worked at Dillons West for over two years. Her primary responsibilities include bagging groceries at check-out and the restocking of various departments. In order to mitigate the risks of COVID-19, the Dillons West employees intermittently close registers to sanitize, sometimes lengthening check-out lines and frustrating customers. 

Murrell shared that one of the hardest challenges of serving as an essential worker during a pandemic is the busy pace of the store. She maintains a positive attitude knowing, “it’s hard for everybody so I have to learn to kind of deal with it.” Murrell added, “We’re busy all of the time so it’s really hard to keep up.”

Murrell also acknowledged the risks of working during coronavirus.

“It’s always really scary to go to work and have to worry about putting a mask on, wearing it right, washing my hands constantly — just simple procedures,” Murrell said.

Another MHS essential worker is senior Zach Paquette, who works as an off-campus home health aide for Meadowlark Hills. Paquette is responsible for assisting people with the tasks of daily living, such as showering, brushing teeth and changing clothes. He plans to pursue a career in health care, and considers his current job as a great first step. Paquette describes his position as independent and rewarding.

“A lot of times you go into a house and you leave, and you know that this person’s life is better because you were able to go and help,” Paquette said. 

Paquette is required to follow universal precautions that currently involve the use of N95 masks, gloves and full personal protective equipment.

According to Paquette, a major part of essential work during COVID-19 is adapting to overcome changes and challenges. 

“You have to kind of stay on your toes and make sure you’re paying attention,” Paquette said. “This job instills a sense of selfless service.” 

Junior Gillian Carter also has served as a health care worker during the pandemic. Carter, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), is a caregiver for At Home Care. Like Paquette, Carter assists her clients with their activities of daily living in their own homes. According to Carter, her time obligations fluctuate each week. 

“[Appointments] can be as short as two hours but some can be 12 hours if someone needs that, so it’s very flexible,” Carter said.

Carter shared that working as an essential worker during the pandemic has impacted her personal life. Along with the precautions of masking and sanitization, Carter tries to be conscientious of her exposure to others because of her interaction with at-risk people. 

Murrell, Paquette and Carter all emphasized the importance of flexibility and adaptability in pandemic jobs.

“You just have to do your job with the circumstances you’re given, which I think is true of the real world,” Carter said.