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(Huyen Tran Tran / Daily Titan)

Although fast-food workers are not at the frontlines nursing those who fall ill, they are regarded as essential employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and are playing a crucial part in helping the community cope with the world turning upside down.

Not only are fast-food employees put at risk by continuing to work at the drive-thru window or taking to-go orders, they’re also suffering the worst of customer backlash, anger and criticism.

These workers are being asked “where are your gloves?” or “why aren’t you wearing a mask?” when it may be out of their control. As if working in customer service isn’t hard enough, the added pressure to please those who would be better off staying at home is the cherry on top.

If these people are as angry as they claim to be at the fast-food industry’s lack of social distancing or preventative safety measures, they shouldn’t buy from them at all.

Consider places like Chick-Fil-A and In-N-Out Burger, where the lines wrap around the parking lot during rush hour. These fast-food workers expected to take orders quickly and correctly, but they now have to do it with a 6-foot gap between themselves and the car.

Most of the time, this is extremely unrealistic and seldom practiced. Fast-food chains thrive off of people’s preferences for convenience, but nothing about the current climate is convenient. In fact, it’s very much the opposite.

There is nothing the world could’ve done to prepare for a crisis of this degree, but maintaining compassion for those who are still putting their lives on the line to go to work is a start.

In retrospect, the only time fast-food workers have typically been expected to wear gloves is when they are handling food. Though it is a safe practice, it is not a state or federal mandate for fast-food employees to wear gloves during this time.

In this type of workplace, different positions require different gloves or no gloves at all. But, the point is that it’s not essential for fast-food workers to wear gloves, so expecting them to adhere to high-maintenance customers’ unnecessary requests is unreasonable.

Customers like these are more likely to be able to afford to stay home anyway, especially if they have the time to hold up an already long drive-thru line to complain about something that cannot systematically be changed at a moment’s notice.

We are in the middle of a pandemic — junk-food cravings can wait. Being bored at home is not a viable reason for going out. Even worse than that is going out and spreading that sour attitude to essential employees, who need to save their time and energy for those who need it more.

The COVID-19 pandemic leaves no time for healthcare practitioners, working extremely long hours, to prepare or at times even eat their meals. Fast-food is their most realistic option, but with the lines for these restaurants, even that option can seem out of reach.

There is no excuse to harass fast-food employees who are already stressed out about putting themselves at risk by working and can’t afford not to work because their hours are getting cut and the other providers in their family are getting laid off.

It’s a scary time for everyone right now. It’s OK to be scared and it’s more than OK to want yourself and others to practice social distancing, as well as better hygiene habits. But, it’s not OK to expect an industry to change overnight or to give workers a hard time for doing their job.

Anyone who has worked in customer service has had their fair share of compromising situations, where there is nothing you can do but apologize to the customer and hope that they don’t call human resources to complain about you.

To anyone who frequents these fast-food businesses, please practice compassion. Take into consideration how the employee or business may be operating with a limited amount of resources available to comply with your safety standards.

Even so, many of these businesses are not requiring their employees to wear masks and gloves because they may not be able to provide it or their employees may not be able to access or afford it.

Despite the multitude of reasons there may be for these circumstances, these workers are doing the best they can with what they have been given to protect themselves and others.

Wearing personal protective equipment to protect your body from the virus will not protect those around you if they are not also wearing it. And even then, the virus can survive on surfaces for up to 3 days, making protective attire a danger in itself.

Do fast-food workers a favor: stay home. Also, do yourself a favor and save yourself the stress of seeing people without personal protective equipment. It’s a shocker that you even made it outside the house considering how scared you are to take a drink or a bag from workers’ hands.

At the end of the day, this is humanity against COVID-19. A lack of compassion for each other’s difficult situations is going to be our downfall when it comes to picking ourselves back up after the pandemic passes.

Practice social distancing, wash your hands and most importantly, be kind. Stop harassing your local fast-food workers.

This is not a healthcare facility. These establishments don’t tend to sick people and they certainly do not want you to go outside or be near other people if you are sick. They are not doctors or nurses. They are not public health workers in the direct line of attack. They are simply trying to provide people with food.

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