I am lucky that I have a job that is allowing me to work from home, potentially for the long haul. I am lucky that I have a company laptop, and that our house has a reliable internet connection and all of the other necessities that I need to be able to do my job from home.
And just to be clear, my company wasn’t set up for this. My set-up at work includes a laptop and an additional monitor, while the normal set-up is two monitors. I started working from a home a week before all hell broke loose, not realizing that this would become anything other than temporary situation.
On the other hand, my husband works at a big box store that has been open for the duration of the pandemic as it has been deemed “essential”. (No offense to my husband’s livelihood, but this #HighRiskCovid19 wife disagrees with that designation) His job cannot be done from home. His continuing to work unfortunately increases the risk level of bringing COVID into our house. Due to other issues, my husband didn’t work for several weeks when the pandemic was really starting to surge in Michigan. One thing his employer has done is provide a fair amount of additional paid and unpaid time. My husband basically takes several days off a week to limit exposure, but also to stretch the amount of time off he has to utilize.
And to be honest, we had the conversation of going without his income. If he felt the risk became too great, he could take unpaid leave. Unfortunately, when you live with someone who is #HighRiskCovid19 but doesn’t have COVID-19, that scenario doesn’t fit into any of the extra-extra time off categories. So just because I’m high risk and my husband lives with me and loves me, doesn’t mean that his employer (or anyone) feels that he should get over and above time off to minimize his risk, which subsequently becomes my risk. And it’s not just his employer. There seems to be a black hole for this type of situation.
And making this is decision wasn’t just about me. We had to consider my husband’s mental health. What would it be like for him to not have anything to do and nowhere to go all the time? On the flipside, we don’t want his mental health to suffer if the concern for risk at work becomes too great and he is anxious all the time about the risk to either of us.
While we could live without my husband’s income, we cannot live without his benefits, which means he has to work enough so that his paycheck is enough to cover our benefits.
We are lucky in so many ways. But this struggle is real. The decision for my husband to go back to work after his initial time off was something that we both agonized over. Because once the cat is out of the bag, there’s no turning back. If he ends up exposed, forget everything.
These are the steps we’ve taken to do what we can to minimize the risk of my husband getting exposed to COVID-19 and bringing it home and exposing me:
1. My husband wears gloves and a mask at work;
2. He leaves a change of clothes in the garage, changes in the garage when he gets home, and leaves his work clothes in the garage until he washes them;
3. We got him his own thermometer to take his temperature – doesn’t seem like the best thing to share at this point (and I don’t trust the inexpensive forehead thermometers that we could share);
4. We have a very small stock of our own gloves and masks so that he isn’t relying on his employer to provide PPE;
5. He uses disposable items to transport and eat his lunch rather than using items from home, like reusable containers, bags, and utensils, so these items are not being brought back into our house.
Of course, by virtue of my husband leaving the house and going into an environment with co-workers and customers coming from all over, there will never not be a risk. But we are doing the best we can with the situation we have, knowing that we are incredibly lucky to both still have jobs during this difficult time.
And while we are divided in our ability to work from home, we are united in the quest for both of us to stay COVID-free.