Baldwin Park: COVID Fatigue on the Front Lines

From fear to burnouts is the switch in behaviors many people have experienced after living with months under a new world following COVID-19. Elise Pueblos, a resident in the city of Baldwin Park as well as an employee who has worked since the start of the pandemic has witnessed this switch in behavior first hand. With infection numbers still on the rise, she fears this behavior in customers will put not only her life but the life of employee’s across the city at life threatening risk.

Baldwin Park, a city just east of Los Angeles, is one of the top four cities in the San Gabriel Valley with the highest reported COVID-19 cases and deaths. Mask mandates have been enforced all throughout the city from having to enter a store to shop for groceries, going to the post office, or picking up your takeout order.

Even with these mandates employees in the community working since the start of the pandemic have seen customers change attitudes regarding their mask use. These employees like Elise Pueblos, Sandy Huynh, Jesse McFadden and many others who are combating in the front lines blame “COVID fatigue” as to reasons why customers now after 7 months refuse or incorrectly wear a mask and disregard social distance protocols.

Elise Pueblos // Food and Agriculture

Pueblos at work wearing a mask.

“The first few months of the lockdown I would see customers come in with a mask plus a face shield and some even with gloves. Now it’s like people don’t know how to wear a mask over their nose when they come in.”

In order to operate business as usual Pueblos’ workplace added extra safety measures by adding plexiglass shields, distancing markers, hand sanitizer availability and contactless pickup. All in effort to increase the safety of customers and staff. But it’s a team effort from both parties to ensure absolute safety.

At the same time when people were panic buying toilet paper and disinfectant wipes was the same time Pueblos observed a feeling of panic and fear among Baldwin Park residents and customers. “You can tell people are tired of it and get irritated when you remind them to follow certain safety protocols,” says Pueblos. Seven months into adapting to the new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic she clearly notices this change of behavior and fears that numerous of these careless acts can put other works on the front lines at risk.

Sandy Huynh // Communications and Information Technology

Huynh wearing a mask while working from her own desk at work.

“The risk might not feel real to them especially if they’ve never personally had someone close to them be affected by the coronavirus.”

Unlike other front line workers Sandy Huynh is fortunate to work in a desk with her own computer where the majority of her interaction with customers is over the phone. Occasionally she would have to scrub into the front office in order to help the needs of customers who come in person with their questions and concerns.

Huynh’s realization of “COVID fatigue” behavior came around the summer when a lot of restaurants across Los Angeles County began to reopen their patios for dine in. This reopening phase had many people thinking that things were starting to go back to normal- so when reminding people to follow safety protocols a few customers showed increased irritability.

“Since the summer I’ve had about five different customers give me attitude for telling them to wait patiently outside until we have an associate available to help them. Even after I told them we were at capacity they insisted that we should have more employees working on the empty desk in the front office.”

Jesse McFadden // Critical Manufacturing

McFadden wearing a mask while at work.

“It’s so selfish for clients to feel entitled to not wear a mask around other people.”

Jesse McFadden’s workplace made a switch from clothing production to the manufacturing of personal protective equipment in order to continue operating under an essential workforce sector. At the facility they began to mass produce cloth masks in order to feed the demand to different buyers and clients.

“At the very start of the pandemic the in person interaction between clients felt very standoff. Usually outside clients and myself would wear gloves in order to reduce the transmission of COVID between packages. However now I would get clients that wouldn’t even bother wearing a mask. One time I confronted a guy asking him if he had a mask and he told me that it was in his car and that he was only going to be out for a few minutes so he didn’t need one.”

For McFadden this switch in behavior is frightening because different buyers and clients come from all over the city whether to drop off an invoice or pick up an order so one never really knows what type of precautions those people are taking. Ultimately a few people’s “COVID fatigue” behaviors can cause collateral effects.

Rosemary Salgado // Food and Agriculture

Salgado at work over the counter serving a salad bowl.

“I see many customers who come in wearing their mask incorrectly or not follow our store’s social distance guidelines all the time and I am not afraid to point it out to them.”

20-year-old Rosemary Salgado has worked all throughout the pandemic in order to pay her personal bills and her tuition cost at Cal Poly Pomona. Not working- even when the fear of spreading COVID-19 to her family members was at an all time high- was not an option for her. Unfortunately for many of us we must continue working in order to sustain not only ourselves but our families.

“My grandma survived COVID but passed away from the complications it left her.”

For Salgado, behaviors of “COVID fatigue” are very dangerous and should be corrected if seen. Until a vaccine is developed and distributed to the masses the same behaviors people had at the start of the pandemic should continue throughout.

COVID-19 is very much still real especially here in Baldwin Park. For many employees across the city the fear of “COVID fatigue” behaviors paired with customers negligence of mask use and social distance protocols can cause a collateral effect within their community.