With optimism, masks and some apprehension for new work circumstances, Hispanic “hand-washing” is resuming as several of these businesses reopened in Southern California.
Accustomed to struggling in life, however for Saul Vera it was a surprise when he was told that the car wash business in Laguna Hill, where he worked for several years, had to close by order of the government and because of an invisible enemy, the new Coronavirus SARS-Cov-2.
Suddenly, apprehension took hold of him at the possibility of not being able to bring bread to his home, made up of his wife and four children. But to his relief, the owner of the company, Vahid David Delrahim, had the noble gesture of offering the workers of his seven premises financial support.
“We were unemployed for a couple of months but the employer was aware of us,” Vera told Efe, who added that his wife also got an extra income.
Two months later, employees have returned, but in the midst of health safety conditions they would never have imagined.
“We Can Barely Recognize Anyone’s Face Anymore”
Vera and more than a dozen Latino workers have returned to the Alicia Auto Spa car wash center in Laguna Hills, in an unfamiliar atmosphere, due to new safety protocols, including gloves, masks, and extensive use of disinfectants.
“A customer told me I’d never seen so many people in masks. It’s a little awkward, but you adapt,” he said.
“Each of us is almost unrecognizable,” he added, given that his usual uniform that included a cap and sunglasses are now added gloves and head caps.
“We don’t look at each other,” said his partner Miguel Otero, who has been working on the premises for three years. He added that there became a new “normal” coVID-19 that was imposed.
He emphasized that the temporary closure in March “affected them very hard,” especially as he and other workers were unable to receive the help provided for in the aid package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump.
“The company did us the favor of supporting us. They paid us half the hours we used to be working on,” he said.
Going back to work makes it feel good, Otero says, “because we’re helping to revive the economy, but a little strange with masks.”
HEALTH, THE GREAT CONCERN
Being healthy is a priority and workers in this business wash their hands every half hour and use disinfectant in ways in which, Vera says, they overcome fear of the new situation that “we don’t know how it is.”
The United States has surpassed the figure of 1.57 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 94,000 deaths, according to the independent Johns Hopkins University count.
With New York State as a major focus of the pandemic, California remains a little further back in the table with 86,197 positive cases and 3,542 deaths, according to official state government figures.
Adriana Morga, a single mother of a five-year-old boy, told Efe that being out of work made her feel “bad because there’s no income,” but on the other hand it was good to be able to share more time with her son, even though she was always haunted by the ghost of getting sick and infecting her little one.
At the head of the masked workers’ group is Edgar Romero, business manager since 2017, but with more than 15 years at the venue where he started from the basics.
With the responsibility of customers, business and workers, Romero feels confident that things will go well.
Alicia Auto Spa reopened by offering its customers, an initial disinfection of the vehicle, at no additional cost, as highlighted by Mike Watson, general manager of the seven premises.
An industrial disinfectant that is not available to the public on the market and leaves the car inside free of bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, is applied to the cars.
“Initial disinfection of the vehicle is the new normal,” emphasizes the general manager, who is confident that following established guidelines there should be no problems.
For the time being, Morga confesses that she is happy to have returned to work “and to be able to do her best to make everything work right.”