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Pandemic perspectives with UA campus workers

Episode One: Bookstore Cashier

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VV: Welcome to pandemic perspectives with UA campus workers, I’m Vic Verbalaitis,

GH: I’m Grant Hoover,

VV: and we are enterprise reporters at the Daily Wildcat.

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GH: This mini-series will explore  how people who work on the University of Arizona campus have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

VV: We will take a look at some of the challenges they face, and how they have adapted to these unique circumstances.

GH: This episode will focus on Kennedy Bell, a junior majoring in retailing & consumer science at the University of Arizona.  Bell has worked as a cashier at the campus bookstore since her freshman year. When COVID-19 hit Arizona in March of 2020, she found herself facing a unique set of circumstances.   With classes switching to online, people felt less inclined to visit campus for their usual reasons. This included going to the bookstore. 

KB: When the pandemic hit, we closed down the store and there were only about ten of us going in to fill online orders and stuff, the store wasn’t actually open for a few months. And because of that a lot of the students who previously worked didn’t come back, so when we did open up the doors we did need to hire some people back in the fall.

VV: As campus began to shut down, Kennedy saw the bookstore drastically reduce its operating capacity, which meant that there would be less employees and less available hours to work and earn money, at least for non work-study students.

KB: Yeah, so I’m one of the last few non work-study students, so I was normally working an average of 20 hours a week and now I’m not allowed to go over 15. That’s like the minimum, so.

KB: It’s not as fun to come into work because there’s not as many customers to interact with, no prospective students coming in to talk to and share how awesome U of A is with them. 

KB: A lot of times they ask us what we, how we feel about going here, what we like, what we don’t like. I always ask students what other schools they’re looking at and a lot of times they say ASU so I talk about some of the differences between the schools in an unbiased way. So it’s just the facts that they’re downtown versus we’re in a smaller city kind of thing, so.

RELATED:  Arizona is opening back up. Here's how UA students are reacting

GH: Despite the sweeping lockdown procedures and high rate of positive coronavirus cases in Arizona at multiple points in the last year, Kennedy does not feel that her job at the bookstore has put her at a particularly high risk of getting COVID-19. 

KB: Because our traffic is based on students and customers visiting, and because of that not being a thing with students working from home and people not traveling, I don’t think that this particular job increases my risks as much, just because we only interact with a couple hundred people a day versus if I worked at Target, you know. 

KB: I think we’re all pretty respectful of each others’ health and safety, and it is all of our number one priority, so it’s really nice to feel that I can go to work and not feel like my, you know, coworkers are putting me in danger of COVID or anything. So I think we’re all really good about that. 

KB: We have the plexiglass up between registers, everyone’s required to wear facemasks, we have extras in case people forget. We’re wiping down and spraying down after every transaction, our cleaning crew is cleaning more, just lots of cleaning.

VV: Even with all of the difficulties surrounding the lockdowns and quarantines, Kennedy feels that the bookstore and the university have done a good job adjusting to the pandemic, especially when it comes to the vaccination initiative.

KB: I am honestly really proud of this university, I think we’re one of the best to be honest, and like the fact that, so my mom got vaccinated a couple weeks ago and she was the 100,000th person to be vaccinated on the mall, so she was really excited about that. But like, the fact that we’ve gotten that many people vaccinated and most of my coworkers and I are vaccinated which is awesome, so I think the fact that, that because we have so many resources that we can use towards this and are using towards this is awesome.

RELATED:  UA vaccination site needs continued support from community

GH: Like many other campus workers, Kennedy’s life and work have been made a lot more difficult. However, she is still committed to her job and said she remains optimistic about the future. 

KB: It’s been hard but we're making it work. I just enjoy it too much to leave.

VV: This is just one of many stories of campus workers doing their jobs to keep the UA functioning, even during a pandemic. Thank you Kennedy Bell for sharing your story, and if you, our listener, have a story you want to share, email storyideas@dailywildcat.com. Thank you to everyone involved in the production of this show, including the enterprise desk at the Daily Wildcat,  Enterprise Editor Capri Fain, Managing Editor Pascal Albright, Editor in Chief Sam Burdette and the Daily Wildcat, “online all the time at dailywildcat.com.” Thanks for tuning in; we’ll catch you next time.



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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (10/16)
676 2 0.3%
Total (8/2)
39,754 601 1.5%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated October 16, 2021