When I first learned of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s statewide shelter-in-place order last Monday, the first person I texted was my mother, a new car salesperson who was at work at the time.
“Yes, I saw that,” my mom said in a reply via text message. “I think I’m going to still have to work.”
Later that afternoon, it was announced that Albion would be shutting down all of its residence halls and encouraging all students to return home within a day. Once again, the first person I told was my mom, still at work.
“I guess they have to, right?” she said via text message. “Meanwhile, I’m still here…”
A new Chevy is not something one would usually consider “essential retail” during the time of a pandemic. Yet Albion’s campus closed down quicker than my mom’s dealership. Because of the auto shop connected to the dealership that can service emergency vehicles, my mom’s work was able to stay open longer than they maybe should have.
Though my mom’s dealership did eventually decide to close until mid-April, laying her off in the process, our household was not free of concern.
My older brother began working grocery retail earlier this year before coronavirus became a concern for any of us. Without knowing it, he signed up to work the front lines of a domestic battle against an invisible enemy.
We live and work in Oakland County, Mich., where one of the first confirmed cases COVID-19 showed up in Michigan. Since then, Oakland Country has gone on to become the county with the second most confirmed cases in Michigan.
Exchanging hands with hundreds of people each day, not a day has passed since the first confirmed case when an internal fear of bringing home the virus does not pass through our home. It is to the point where my brother’s after work routine has been cemented as a change of clothes and a shower, no matter what time he gets off.
Though his concern lies with infecting my mom, whose age lies in the range of those who most commonly contract the virus (at 20%), she is not the only one I worry about when my brother comes home every day.
As the number of those affected has risen hundreds the past few days, it has become more apparent that this virus does not discriminate. My brother and I are both healthy twenty-somethings with no immune compromising disorders, but it would be foolish to assume we are free from falling victim.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 12% of cases that require an intensive care unit (ICU) treatment are patients from age 20 to 44.
I would like to live in the illusion that my brother is incapable of contracting the virus as he continues to be the sole on-site worker in our house, but it would be just that: an illusion.
My mother, my brother and I must instead live with the reality that my brother is at risk every time he leaves for work. He is put at risk from the gloves and masks left in the parking lot, increasing number of co-workers and the dozens of customers he interacts with every day.
At the end of the day, however, the risk he is putting himself at is a sacrifice he is willing to make. My brother is just one of many hard working Americans willing to risk his own health to serve others and pay his bills.
At this time of such uncertainty in America, it has become clear who the backbone of this country really is. It’s the grocery retail workers like my brother, food preparation and delivery people, first responders, sanitation workers, utility workers, medical professionals and more.
While we live in fear of COVID-19 and our shaky economy, we must also remember to remain grateful for these everyday heroes who keep our country running.