Alice worked at a small business in the food industry when COVID-19 hit St. Louis. She made $8/hour and did not have health insurance. Before the pandemic, her employers told the staff that they while they could not offer health insurance they would “help them out” if they ever had a medical need but there was never clarity on what that meant. This left Alice in a vulnerable position when the pandemic hit and as she weighed her options for care she realized, “if I get this I will just have to die. I can’t afford going to a hospital and my family wouldn’t be able to help me either. If it got bad, I would just have to stay home and die”.
In July Alice got tested for COVID-19 with her roommate before returning to work. Since she is uninsured, Alice had to pay $100 for her test while her roommate, who makes significantly more money than her and has insurance, paid $0 for her test. Alice understood that she would be reimbursed for her test as is expressed in the CARES Act but has yet to receive this reimbursement.
In an attempt to save money and care for her grandfather, Alice moved in with him this summer. While some financial burden has been lifted, Alice explains that she now carries a lot of stress around keeping him safe as she returns to work, now at a new job. Her eighty-year-old grandfather enjoys Alice’s company and doesn’t have the same level of fear about the COVID-19 virus so there is a constant tension between spending time with her grandfather and keeping him safe. This is a daily stressor Alice must carry.
In her new job, Alice feels much safer and is grateful for the strict cleaning and sanitation procedures in place. Her employer provides masks and gloves and she shares that there are sanitation stations set up throughout the store. She interacts with customers minimally and has had a largely positive experience but has had some run-ins with what she calls “anti-maskers” or people that do not believe in wearing masks. In one instance, a customer approached the curb-side pick-up and upon seeing Alice wearing a mask said, “you don’t need that mask. It’s bad for you to breathe in all that carbon dioxide”. Alice knew she was not in a position to defend herself or change his mind on the issue so she simply gave him his products and left the situation when she could. Alice remains uninsured and did not want to put herself at further risk by talking to someone not wearing a mask.
After some pressure from her family in St. Charles, Alice said she began to loosen up some of her social distancing practices. Soon after opening up to the idea of socializing more, she found out that a friend of hers tested positive for COVID-19. Luckily Alice had not seen this friend in a while and was not at risk of having COVID-19 but this quickly changed her mind about seeing people outside of work and home. Alice is young and believes she has a well-functioning immune system but is scared of spreading the virus to her grandfather or anyone else and is choosing to play it safe and stay home until more information is known on how best to prevent the spread of this virus.