Waldo McGuiness operates the elevator that takes people from the shops of downtown Oregon City to the shops above the bluff.
“We do have the operators actually still in the vicinity of the elevator, that’s in order to keep the six foot distance,” McGuiness explained.
“We are staying out of the cab and instead what we’re doing is still counting people and every 30 minutes or 30 people we’re wiping down the surfaces of the elevator and making sure everything is clean.”
It’s tough to be at work when everyone else is social distancing at home.
“I would personally rather be home, but I feel it’s important work that we’re still doing here,” said McGuiness.
In a new public service announcement voiced by Oregon Governor Kate Brown, she encourages Oregonians to stay home and she singles out people like bus drivers and health care workers, saying “It’s in times like these we realize who the real heroes are,” she said.
“They are the ones that keep the world turning. Who everyday come face to face with the same enemy everyone is being told to avoid. They’re out there for you. Stay home for them.”
At the Green Zebra grocery store in Southeast Portland, Patty Beavers stocks shelves and works the till. She’s being asked to wash her clothes and apron every day; keep the plexiglass sheets between herself and the customers; and encourage people to use the stickers on the floor to maintain six feet distance.
“There’s a lot of hand washing. A lot of glove-wearing. Sanitizing of our pin pads, our cashier counters and our scanners,” said Beavers.
“It’s kind of intense out here. People are worried. Some people are a little emotional. Some people are like, OK, let’s get through this.”
Her boyfriend has been laid-off. He’s on unemployment and doing all the household maintenance he didn’t get around to while working. She thinks their federal stimulus checks will probably go to pay for some of that maintenance, as well as groceries and maybe some of the mortgage.
“I’m just grateful that I’m able to work right now,” said Beavers.
“Just hang in there, be clean, be safe, this will pass. It always has and it will,” she said.
Lisa Sedlar, the founder and CEO of Green Zebra convenience stores in Portland, has about 120 employees.
She said her business hasn’t received any help with personal protective equipment from any government organization, whether that be the city, the state or federal government.
“If we’re considered an essential service provider, it seems to me they should convene a group of grocers to have a conversation about how we’re going to handle this together,” said Sedlar.
“As you can see, I’m wearing a homemade mask one of my staff member’s sisters made me … and we are certainly not well equipped to handle thousands of people a day coming through the door.”
Sedlar said that up until recently, she and her staff have been largely dismissed as “just grocery workers,” and it feels good to be seen as a hero all of a sudden.
While she’s had to shut down the sandwich-making section and other parts of the business, there’s a silver lining.
“The first time I heard the words ‘shelter-in.’ I said: ‘Oh my God! We have to do online food.’ And our order size hovers around $90 per order. So our normal basket size in-store was $13 and now we’re doing orders of $90,” said Sedlar.
But all that comes with a price. Over the last few days, Oregonians working at Fred Meyer and Winco have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Across the country, a number of grocery workers have died.