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  • Daniel Peaden, reporter

How COVID-19 Has Affected Employees, Local Businesses

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, but the pandemic has put many of them in jeopardy. According to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences, 43% of small businesses have had to temporarily close their doors due to COVID-19, citing employee health concerns and decrease in demand as their reasons for closure. However, for the businesses that have managed to stay open, normal operations have had to change drastically to follow the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

Chandler Potts, a senior at East High working at the local Wichita pizzeria Picasso’s, spoke about his experience balancing not only online schooling and a part-time job during a pandemic, but also how his employers have had to change their status-quo to ensure the safety of employees and patrons.

“Balancing work and school can sometimes be difficult, but it really depends on the amount of work my teachers give me,” Potts said. “I haven’t had much work as of late… I’ve been able to work about 30 hours a week without any problems.”

Although online schooling may seem like a strange new paradigm, working during a pandemic is even more removed from how it was in the past. The CDC recommends encouraging patrons and employees to wear masks and implementing policies for social distancing in the workplace. In a restaurant setting, there is also the extra element of customers sitting down to eat.

“We have to wear masks as employees, and we also encourage people who come in to eat to wear masks,” Potts said. “We give out disposable masks if they don’t have one when they come in… We close off certain booths and tables in the dining room to maintain six feet [of social distancing], and if someone needs a refill, they have to ask for a replacement cup.”

One element many haven’t considered is the stress put on employees for having to work during a pandemic. People who work in the service industry don’t exactly have the option to work from home, and even with safety precautions, there still is the chance that a sick customer or employee can spread the virus.

“I do often think about it,” said Potts. “The amount of people that come in and out of the restaurant, breathing and eating - however, we’re really doing all we can. We have good enough ventilation and safety procedures that I don’t worry too much about it.”

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