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Essential workers provide critical services during the pandemic

By Cindy Zhao and Nancy Zheng June 3, 2020

Nicole Kim Art

On March 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the executive stay-at-home order, with  the  exception of continuing operations within 13 critical infrastructure sectors, including the Critical Manufacturing, Food and Agriculture Sector and Government Operations Sectors. While the majority of the general public are strongly advised to stay home and follow social distancing  guidelines, essential workers are continuing to provide the San Jose community with their services. Aside from healthcare workers who directly combat the pandemic, the term “essential” covers a broad range of employees from restaurant workers, grocery cashiers and delivery workers just to name a few. 

According to the Calif. Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, critical infrastructure spans over any industries that are physical or virtual assets, systems and networks crucial to the U.S; the incapacitation of these infrastructures would undermine national security, economic security, public health and safety, or any combination thereof. While they can continue to go to work, employees who work under these sectors must still adhere to outlined workplace health and safety guidelines and procedures. San Jose Police Department (SJPD) Officer Duc Ngo, father of Junior Kaci Ngo, has continued to work closely with the Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport as an Explosive Detection K9 Officer. His job entails detecting and deterring the introduction of explosive devices into the airport system. In recent weeks, although SJPD has seen a substantial decline in passenger traffic, Officer Ngo and his coworkers are still working to police the airport and respond to calls for service in the area. 

“With new requirements at the airport, officers working at the checkpoints are now required to wear masks during their shift. Officers are also required to wear masks and gloves when responding to calls for service. Our department has made the safety of officers as well as citizens a priority; we are given the proper equipment daily to perform our job and have safety measures in line for any circumstances in which an officer comes into contact with someone with COVID-19,” D. Ngo said. 

People should continue to follow the requirements set by the state and county with regards to social distancing and essential needs. The more we adhere to the rules the faster we can get back to normalcy.

Lori Cichon, Junior Melissa Cichon’s mother, works as a Confidential Secretary to the Santa Clara County Assessor, who is responsible for the annual assessment roll, a record of property taxes of commercial buildings and residential homes as mandated by state law. In order to complete the roll, L. Cichon needs to physically be at work every day. “Our working environment has changed drastically. Most of our office is teleworking from home right now. They are all provided laptops to sign in to our County network. Out of the 260 employees in the Assessor’s office, there are only about 20-30 employees that come into the office on a regular basis, like myself,” L. Cichon said. Essential workers also understand the vitality of their work, which motivates them to continue pushing forward during the pandemic. ​ “As a County worker and a designated disaster servicer, I am indirectly supporting crucial social services for County residents. The property taxes that we collect fund our schools, local government, police and fire departments and critical social services programs for our community,” L. Cichon said. ​ Restaurants and grocery stores are also witnessing changes to typical business procedures. Sophomore Vaibhavi Chamiraju’s family owns a Vitality Bowls store. Due to the pandemic, they have changed store hours and only provide to-go orders. The store’s employees also work in single shifts, where only one person works at a time. Sophomore Sylvia Zhang’s father is an engineer required to go to work regularly. In order to prevent potential contamination with his family members at home, Zhang’s father immediately disinfects himself and changes his clothes in the car before entering the house after each work shift. His workplace also ensures protection for employees by providing them with masks to wear while at the office.  ​ “People should continue to follow the requirements set by the state and county with regards to social distancing and essential needs. The more we adhere to the rules the faster we can get back to normalcy,” D. Ngo said.

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