Employees’ jobs change to fit Pennsylvania mandate

As a result of Governor Wolf’s mandate to partially close Pennsylvania, employees at local businesses had to alter their jobs to stay safe. From mid-December to early January, many businesses closed, while others improved upon their pandemic safety practices.


Making the best out of a shutdown…Preparing to indulge in a takeout meal from Freddy’s Steakburgers in Lansdale is Harleysville resident Andrew Johnson. Since no customers were allowed inside during the shutdown, Pennsylvania residents supported local restaurants through takeout and curbside pickup. Arrowhead photo by Kathryn Johnson.

By either taking time off work or changing the way they interacted with clients, employees maintained pandemic safety during the government shutdown beginning in December to comply with Governor Wolf’s guidelines.
After COVID cases began to rise again in December 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf decided that another shutdown was necessary to keep people safe. The shutdown occurred from December 12 to 8 a.m. to January 4. During this period, indoor gatherings of more than ten people were prohibited, though religious spaces were exempt. Because of this, restaurants and other dining establishments served take out, drive throughs, and outdoor dining to continue business.
Along with restaurants, indoor operations at gyms and fitness facilities were also prohibited. All other indoor businesses were expected to operate at 50% capacity.
Since this shutdown affected the way so many businesses operated, it changed the way many workers did their job, including The Mill employee Logan Conver.
Conver enjoyed the shutdown, because there were several perks to doing take out only, including safety.
“I like doing takeout better than indoor dining,” Conver said. “It’s a lot less stressful, and honestly I get more money.”
During the shutdown, The Mill prohibited customers from entering the building, but was open for curbside pickup. After the mandate expired, The Mill opened its doors at 25% capacity for indoor dining, while continuing to do curbside pickup.
Conver believes that the mandate helped his restaurant operate in a safer manner.
“I honestly think we should go back to just doing takeout, though that’s just a preference of mine,” Conver said. “It definitely made me feel safer about going to work.”
Energy Station employee Maya DePolo continued working during the shutdown. However, DePolo’s restaurant chose not to follow the mandate and she continued serving customers indoors.
At first, Depolo was hesitant to come into work.
“I was a bit nervous, but I felt that I and nobody in my family was technically at high risk, so I felt decently safe working there,” DePolo said.
According to DePolo, the staff constantly wiped down high contact surfaces, and tried their best to keep people spread out throughout the building.
However, DePolo noted that the business had more customers during the shut down, likely because many other restaurants were closed during this time.
Peter Becker Nursing Home employee Rachel Gat also continued working through the shutdown. Since there was nothing specific to nursing homes in Wolf’s announcement, Gat’s job didn’t change drastically.
Her job’s changes during this time consisted of working longer hours and cleaning more thoroughly.
“To keep both employees and residents safe, we took on a lot more cleaning than we ever had before, and we wore masks 24/7,” Gat said. “Even if they were soaking wet from doing the dishes.”
According to Gat, the employees would make sure to have gloves on at all times and wash their hands each time they removed their gloves. Though this is typical behavior, they paid extra mind to it because of rising COVID cases.
Gat was comfortable continuing to work, since many residents and employees, including herself, received the Pfizer COVID vaccine.
SynaTek employee Cali Benner also continued to work during this time.
“I did feel safe going to work,” Benner said. “We took the precautions we needed to wearing masks and social distancing.”
Benner said that it wasn’t always easy to maintain social distancing, however the employees always tried their best.
Unlike Benner, Halina Saydam, an employee at the Indian Valley Country Club and The Butcher and Barkeep, did not continue to work during the shutdown.
While Saydam was off, the Indian Valley Country Club paid her $25 each week.
“I definitely have some hesitations,” Saydam said after returning to work. “Especially when the customers take off their mask when they speak after they sit down, but other than that I’m fine.”
Since reopening, businesses are requiring everybody to wear masks as well as social distancing. In addition to that, both businesses are requiring reservations, so they can contract trace in the event that somebody tests positive for COVID.
“We’ve been spacing out the tables, requiring everyone to wear masks, and make reservations before,” Saydam said.
Similarly, Clare Bagley, a lifeguard at the YMCA, also stopped working during the shutdown. During her time off from work, Bagely didn’t get paid, since she’s only a part-time employee.
According to Bagley the YMCA did offer free childcare for parents who weren’t able to afford it during this time.
Now that the mandate has been lifted, Bagley still hasn’t returned to work, since she’s nervous about contracting COVID.
“I haven’t gone back, since I’m personally really worried about Covid,” Bagley said.
“When people are in the pool, technically they can get as close to people as they want,” Bagley said. “And in the locker rooms you don’t really know what’s happening,”
Bagley said that after the first shutdown in March, the YMCA came back in phases. However, after this shutdown they have opened up completely.
To help keep the community safe, YMCA lifeguards are wearing masks. Due to choking hazard, swimmers are not permitted to wear masks in the pool.