Generation Covid: Working Through the Pandemic

Essential workers of all kinds face the same challenge: staying healthy while doing the job.


Job security has been uncertain for many during the pandemic, but for those who have been able to continue working, navigating the various phases of restrictions and ever-changing guidelines has presented an extra set of challenges, especially for workers in positions that require face-to-face interactions.

Typically, comparing the jobs of a medical assistant and a Transportation Security Administration agent would be a stretch, but considering how closely each works with people every day, in the context of the pandemic they are next door neighbors when it comes to risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Molly, 25, a Key Peninsula native and medical assistant for a family practice said, “We have a lengthy screening and check-in process before we let patients into the building. We also utilize telehealth or video visits for patients who are symptomatic. However, the risk is never zero. We do have close contact with co-workers throughout the day. We also have patients who are not fully truthful when it comes to their symptoms or exposures.”

Wyatt, 30, who also grew up on the KP and works as a TSA agent at SeaTac airport, said he wears a mask and social distances from co-workers as best he can, but social distancing isn’t something he can do when he has to perform a pat down on passengers moving through security. It does help that the number of people traveling has decreased significantly. “I can be at a position at work and not see another passenger for hours,” he said.

One year after adjusting to the “new normal” imposed by the pandemic, the potential for another shift in normality looms as vaccines become more available. As restrictions are lifted for businesses and gatherings, guidelines for sanitation, social distancing and masks remain intact.

“I can’t say that these protocols are sustainable for everyone, however I believe they are necessary for the long-term,” Molly said. “It seems as though a lot of our population does not understand the severity and the necessary steps needed to control the situation. I think the vaccine is a great opportunity for us to try and control the outbreak. Unfortunately, not everyone is as willing to get it as I am.”

Opinions about the vaccine vary, and while there are people like Molly who are optimistic about the effects the vaccine can have overall, there are others like Wyatt who approach the question of getting vaccinated with skepticism.

“If I were older, I would get it. But because I’m younger I don’t want to take the chance … you don’t know the side effects yet,” Wyatt said, adding that he worries that years from now he’ll see a television commercial seeking out people for lawsuits against the companies producing vaccines because of possible unknown effects down the line.

As far as immediate effects go, Molly, who has received both doses of the vaccine, said “I think I was pretty fortunate when it comes to reactions. I got away with minor fatigue. I know they are warning people that reactions are pretty common, especially after the second dose.”

As with so many people at this point, pandemic fatigue is real for these two. After cancelling trips last year, Molly said she’s looking forward to traveling again. And Wyatt is most looking forward to being able to meet up with friends in public. The hurdle to a sense of normality is shrinking to a more achievable height every day, but there’s still some distance to go.

While they differed on their feelings about the vaccine, both Wyatt and Molly expressed a similar outlook on how people should behave post-vaccination.

“People should behave the same way they did before getting the vaccine by following the same guidelines to prevent spreading,” Wyatt said.

“This is not a cure-all vaccine. It does not guarantee you cannot spread this virus to anyone else,” Molly said. “It is to help protect yourself with hopes it results in herd immunity.”