‘Every Day Is Frightening’: Working For Walmart Amid Covid-19 Lockdown
Enlarge this image toggle caption Carolyn Kaster/AP Carolyn Kaster/AP
On a recent Monday morning, Linda Fennell and two other store associates sat in the back of a pickup truck as they made their way to a Walmart in suburban Denver. They wore masks — but they were not trying to hide from the world that was approaching. They knew they were close to one of the biggest crowds of people in history, a crowd that will likely leave them feeling sick as they walk around the store.
“It’s a lot of fear. It’s a lot of anxiety,” said Fennell, a manager at the store. “And it’s just something that is part of work. I guess it’s the nature of the world we live in.”
These women are among the tens of thousands of Walmart employees around the country who are working without pay amid the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus. In states with large populations, that means many workers, like Fennell, are working in warehouses and call centers in some of the nation’s most populous cities.
In the last week, the U.S. has recorded more than 6,800 cases, and more than 2,300 are hospitalized. That’s a sharp increase from less than 200 cases just a week ago.
Some of the people who have contracted the virus are healthy, and their numbers are trending downward. But as the virus has spread globally, it has also created a bottleneck here in Colorado, which has more elderly residents than anywhere else in the country.
Many of the store employees, who have never seen or experienced anything like this before, are worried about their own health as they leave their families. It feels like everyone else is stuck indoors. “I don’t feel like going outside to do my shopping,” said Michelle Haskins, a store cashier who’s been working since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
At Walmart’s Denver store, there are some people wearing masks, but most people are not. When I asked if they were worried about transmission to anyone else, they all said that they weren’t.
“You have to be very careful if you are outside even then, because there might be people you don’t know from other stores doing it, too,”