Editor’s note: In this interview, our former student Marlén Gamas speaks with her sister, a Pharmacy Technician, about how her life has changed since the COVID-19 emergency was declared. This is an edited version of the recorded interview. You can listen to the interview here:
By Marlén Gamas
JASMINE GAMAS: My name is Jasmine Gamas. I am 34 years old and I’m a Pharmacy Tech.
BOYLE HEIGHTS BEAT: Describe in detail what it was like going to work before COVID-19.
JG: Like any normal job, you know, get ready, put on… your hair done, makeup on, get ready and get to work.
BHB: And what is it like now? How is work life different?
JG: Now I have to make sure I have a mask, gloves. I have to make sure I have proper gear every day. Additional to have hand sanitizer. I make sure I get home, go straight to the bathroom, take off everything I was wearing, go straight to shower and make sure my clothes that I wear to work doesn’t get touched by anybody else but me.
BHB: Tell me about how your daily routine and how it’s changed since the virus.
JG: It’s different, now we have to be more careful. Everything that we come in contact with, every person that we come in contact, it takes longer time to just start working. I get there and make sure I wash my hands again, sanitize them, put gloves on, put the mask on. And then after that I have to clean my station where I work. It’s just a little more worry about everything that’s around me and touch everything, including people that are around me. Pharmacy is not that big, so we’re usually very close to each other, working side by side, and we all touch everything. We all have access to the same places, same phones. So we have to just make sure we clean them but we can really keep everything because the medication bottles are touched by everybody daily.
BHB: What are you most afraid of about being at work at this time?
JG: Bringing the COVID back home. I could catch it from a co-worker, from a patient, from a prescription that I’ve grabbed from a patient, from a bottle that they hand me to get a refill, a pen that they touch, it’s easily me bringing it home. Me catching it at work with somebody coughing or sneezing, not only by patients, by customers, or by my own coworkers. During the day, it’s pretty busy. We’ve been having a lot of sick people going in, some even with the possibility of having the COVID-19. It worries you. A lot of people wanting their medications faster because they don’t want to wait at the pharmacy. We have a big line, we can only use one register at a time because we can’t have patients too close to each other. The line gets pretty long to the door because we have to spread them farther apart from each other.
“During the day, it’s pretty busy. We’ve been having a lot of sick people going in, some even with the possibility of having the COVID-19. It worries you.”
BHB: So how do you feel about a lot of people being able to work from home?
JG: For people like essential workers like us that we have to actually be there… yeah, I wish I was at home too, with the kids, doing homeworks, more times, like other people work at home. Like nurses and doctors, they can’t help their patients at home. Just the way we can’t fill their prescriptions at home. We have to be at the actual place to be able to be able to do that. I wish we could do that but we can’t. It’d be nice.
BHB: How has the pharmacy been helping with this transit transition?
JG: They’ve been trying to provide gloves as much as you can and masks. Now at the moment we’re out of the… my company has no masks for us, they already let us know for us to make sure we do take our own masks. They have gloves, they made sure they sanitize their places. So we… they try to keep us as much as safe as… having products to clean our counters and our phones. But I understand that sometimes they’re running out to order. So they let us know to order stuff as well, to buy get our own gear.
BHB: Hmm, are you somehow afraid you might lose your job?
JG: Unless somebody actually gets sick and have any of the symptoms, our job, it’s secure because the pharmacy has to be open at all times.
BHB: And if you were to lose your job, what would that do to your family situation?
JG: It would affect it. It’s one of the primary, it’s one of your primary income sources. And that’s where I get my health insurance, for my whole family, that’s where I keep my family just in case they need to go to the doctor that my job actually provides for insurance.
BHB: So right now, when is the worst part of your day?
JG: Busy days, busy days at work, where you feel you’re not going to finish everything that we have to finish, and worrying about when a patient tells you ‘I might have COVID-19’.
BHB: And what’s the okay part of you day?
JG: When it starts slowing down and we could finally have time to breathe in and not have so many people at the pharmacy.