Living as an essential worker during COVID-19


Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Liu

Chin’s Gourmet Restaurant Manager Rena Li (center) smiles in a photo taken before the coronavirus outbreak.

Lena McEachern, Editor-in-Chief

At Chin’s Gourmet restaurant in Escondido, customers can find highly rated shrimp fried rice, kung pao chicken, chow mein and more on the menu. Beyond the menu, visitors will see protective face masks, gloves and social distancing requirements. During the spread of COVID-19, restaurants and their essential workers have had to adjust. 

Senior Kaitlyn Liu’s mother, Rena Li, manages Chin’s Gourmet and has tackled head on the difficulties that come with COVID-19. After waking up in the morning and handling household chores, Rena heads to work. Once there, safety is her top priority. 

The first thing I do when I get to the restaurant is put on a protective face mask and gloves to ensure the safety of myself and customers,” Rena said. “Besides basic health codes like wearing masks and gloves, we also need to ensure that social distancing rules are followed among customers who are picking up their orders.” 

Rena Li wears a protective face mask at Chin’s Gourmet restaurant in Escondido. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Liu.

The amount of customers at the restaurant has not significantly changed, as dine-in orders have simply become take-out orders. Rena works to handle the busy influx of pickup orders at the restaurant until closing time, which causes concerns over safety.

I’m afraid of getting infected by someone,” Rena said. “Since a lot of people come and go in a designated area for pickup orders, I’m at high risk of catching the virus and you never know who may carry either.”

Just like the novel coronavirus, the fear itself of catching the virus feels contagious. Rena falling in the potentially high risk age range for being vulnerable to the coronavirus causes additional concerns for Kaitlyn.

I’m definitely worried about my mom’s health as a food worker,” Kaitlyn said. “I feel like I’m feeding into public fear and anxiety with cases around our area appearing like wildfire.” 

While Chin’s Gourmet stays open during this crisis, many other important places like school have closed. Although Kaitlyn agrees with school cancellations as a safety precaution, she still feels the disappointment that comes with missing out on one’s last year of high school.

I feel like I’m feeding into public fear and anxiety with cases around our area appearing like wildfire

— Kaitlyn Liu

As a senior in high school, I am pretty bummed out about not being able to participate in senior activities I’ve been looking forward to, as well as seeing my friends and talking to them in person,” Kaitlyn said. 

In the midst of all the fear and cancellations caused by coronavirus, supporting local businesses can be a source of positivity and community. Even while just ordering take-out from a nearby business, Rena warns it’s important to continue following safety precautions.

As an essential worker, we are more at risk of getting infected than anyone else,” Rena said. “So, please ensure the safety of others and yourself by wearing face masks, gloves and practicing social distancing in restaurants to slow the spread.”