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A customer approaches the front door at Kroger on University Drive in 2018.

Robert Snider wipes down his workstation after the canned goods, refrigerated meats and fresh vegetables are scanned and bagged. He runs a sanitizing cloth across the conveyor belt, the PIN pad and the empty spaces in between.

Wheels on shopping carts clank through the store aisles. Customers in masks and some in gloves keep their distance as told. Brightly colored markers on the floor remind them.

“I have additional tasks that need to be done to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Snider, a marketing senior at University of North Texas, works as a cashier at the Kroger in central Denton. Like other people who work in grocery stores, he is considered an essential employee on the front lines in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He meets with lots of people in a time of otherwise careful isolation. He assists customers in finding or substituting items when a shelf is empty. He also must explain the limits on popular items.

The added duties bring more stress to his job, he says. But overall, most customers have been nicer than usual, thanking him for working in a business that must remain open for others.

Because he is around so many people every day, he says he’s more careful about his contact with others, including his two roommates. He’s more careful in case he’s carrying the virus without symptoms — and therefore won’t be tested.

“My social life has more or less deteriorated as a result of all of this,” Snider said. “I didn’t realize how many people I talked to on a daily basis beforehand, which makes me kind of sad to be honest.”

He and his roommates practice social distancing, mostly staying in their rooms. They work hard at it because one roommate works at a warehouse where he, too, is around a lot of people.

Before the pandemic, school and work filled his day.

“Since UNT’s campus closed, however, I have taken on extra hours at work to help fill in the now empty time that has left me,” he said.

Snider says he believes some of the new hygiene and distancing guidelines will stay even after the stay-at-home orders are fully lifted.

“I imagine most people are going to take sanitary guidelines more seriously from now on, but I do wonder how many companies are going to continue to enforce these safekeeping guidelines even after the pandemic comes to an end,” Snider says. “Who’s to say that once we think this whole thing is over, then it comes back even harder than last time?”

 

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