Vintage Faire

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California has reopened and is already seeing it's customers return. (Signal Photo/Jessica Silva)

The coronavirus has caused most businesses to close, and it has been recommended by public officials that people stay six feet apart from one another. As a result, more people have applied for unemployment than any other time in history. The pandemic has changed our way of life and the way we work, especially as businesses begin to reopen.

The restaurant industry has been one that has been affected by COVID-19 immensely, but in a very unique way. The community I live in has tried their hardest to encourage social distancing and staying at home. The city has put up signs that say to stay home unless it is essential. Restaurants that are still open have social distancing markers that customers must follow.

Most restaurants in my town have closed their dine-in services, and people are calling for delivery or doing contactless carryout. Major corporations are not being affected as harshly as small-town businesses. Fortunately for myself (author Jacob Mendoza), COVID-19 has affected my employment for the better. I am a delivery driver, and my hours have been bumped up due to the high demand.

Delivery Guy

Illustration by Peter Shallow.

However, every day I go to work, I fear that I may possibly bring back the virus and that it will be fatal to my mother, who is compromised due to a recent kidney transplant.

Luckily, the company has provided me and all my coworkers with face masks and sanitizer. The company also has implemented a new policy of “no contact delivery,” which will ensure minimum physical interaction with the public. These safety precautions and extra sanitary measures are expected to continue at most businesses for the foreseeable future.

Benjamin Mendoza (author Jacob Mendoza’s father) is a loan officer whose company was forced to close because of the pandemic. Mendoza describes the company not being able to conduct business as “frustrating, but necessary.” This company will also be taking extra safety precautions, which is something that will surely slow things down, but is also extremely necessary.

Places where extra precautions will definitely still be needed once more of the economy reopens are large retail stores. Vanessa Gonzalez (sister of author Gerardo Gonzalez) has been struggling during this time as an essential worker and has seen chaos unfold day after day as people rush to empty the shelves at Target. Gonzalez works in the cosmetics and care section, so she encounters less of the panic and pandemonium.

Although she works in a much calmer section of the store, Gonzalez still witnesses everything that goes on. “The people coming to the store are crazy. Many are taking safe measures, but there are those who come just to walk around and hang out,” Gonzalez explains.

With restrictions in the state of California beginning to ease, Gonzalez expects to see more chaos in stores in the future. “What I experience here is scary, and I pray for those (like me) working in essential businesses because it is only going to get worse.”

Although most workers like Mendoza and Gonzalez are already facing the pandemic-related hardships at their places of employment, those with existing health conditions have an even greater concern.

David Perez is 62 years of age and has worked at Vulcan, a major cement company who distributes to many businesses across the country, for over 20 years. Perez has been struggling to decide whether or not he should keep working or just leave it all behind to ensure his health.

“I have been working my whole life, it is all I have known. I need to provide for my family still, but with my health problems of high blood pressure and diabetes, I do not know whether to stop or just pray that the company's social distancing guidelines help me stay safe,” Perez says.

Construction Guy

Illustration by Peter Shallow.

As with many guidelines and recommendations in general, not every customer or client follows the rules. This is a great concern for those who are continuing to work and for those who will be returning to work in the coming days.

Governor Gavin Newsom has made clear guidelines when it comes to reopening businesses in all of the state’s 58 counties. He has made it clear which counties can reopen certain businesses, when they can do so, and how they can go about it. 

As of right now, Stanislaus County is beginning to allow more businesses that are categorized under phase two to reopen. These places include retail locations like the mall and clothing stores, and beauty parlors such as hair and nail salons, as long as they follow safety guidelines.

With the threat of the coronavirus still existing, one must wonder how the public will react to their favorite places opening up so soon. A quick trip to Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto provides a brief look into how the public is responding to reopening efforts.

The number of people going to the mall is currently very low. The majority of vehicles were parked around the restaurants that surround the mall. Many of these surrounding restaurants provide outside seating, which is allowed during this phase of reopening and is a huge draw for consumers.

Cars Parked

Outdoor seating at the restaurants surrounding Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, California may be a major draw for people as restrictions in the county begin to be eased. (Signal Photo/Jessica Silva)

Although it’s not clear exactly how many people are actually going inside of the mall to shop, it certainly seems like some Stanislaus County residents are taking a risk and slowly returning to a normal daily lifestyle. 

As long as businesses reopen safely and citizens continue to take part in social distancing practices, we may soon see many people be able to go back to work or have their hours increased and returned to normal. It’s much easier said than done, though. We must continue to work together as a collective to protect, not only ourselves, but each other to allow the state to reach the final phase of reopening, phase four.

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