Going to work can be dicey for those whose jobs take them inside other people’s homes. The pandemic has forced many people to weigh the personal risks they are willing to take in exchange for employment and, in some instances, completely altered how they perform their work.
Angelina Singer, an estate planning attorney who serves clients—many of them elderly—by meeting in their homes, saw work screech to a halt at the beginning of the pandemic. People were wary of having a non-family member in their personal space. “I lost almost all of my business immediately,” she says.
As information spread about how to avoid infection, work began to pick up. Singer adjusted by adopting strict safety protocols for in-home appointments. “When I meet clients, they wear a mask, I wear a mask, I always bring gloves, we sit at least six feet apart, and even then, some clients prefer to sit on a porch or patio rather than inside,” she says.
In spite of these precautions, Singer has to place a measure of trust in her clients. “You don’t know how careful other people have been, so when you’re entering their home, you really have to rely on the fact that they have been careful and that the exposure risk remains low.”
Christina Gregorio, who works as a nanny for a toddler, was forced to take a break from her job as she quarantined at home with her husband, a nurse, who tested positive for COVID 19. Prior to that, however, her daily practices on the job hadn’t changed dramatically from what they were before the pandemic began.
“There is more hand washing. We are better about covering our mouths when coughing or sneezing. We wipe things down more,” she explains. However, she does not wear a mask inside her employer’s home. And distancing is pretty much out of the question when caring for a young child.
Gregorio takes her cues from her employer, who she says is practical but not overly cautious. “If they’re comfortable with me being there, then I’m comfortable being there. If I’m not feeling well, I’m OK with saying that. Of course, I felt a moral obligation to tell her when my husband wasn’t feeling well.”
Gregorio believes she would feel safer at her job if the rate of infection in the community wasn’t so high. “Things opening back up and everybody rushing around to get back to regular life was stupid. I think it was premature and selfish. I understand that businesses weren’t doing well, but look at the outcome.”