Story written by: Preston A. Thompson
We are sending this email with deep concern and empathy. On Friday over half of our 1119 employees across our four locations, the majority working in production, called out of work due fever-like symptoms. These employees were informed to get tested for COVID at any free testing location immediately and once the results came back, they send us proof of their results. It is now estimated approximately 311 employees have been confirmed positive for the COVID-19 virus. In addition, 121 employees have negative COVID results and are sick from the regular flu or cold while the remaining are waiting for results. At this time, these employees will not be returning to work until they have negative test results after a two-week quarantine period and no COVID-related symptoms. We wish all employees affected well wishes and to remain safe during these unprecedented times.
Here at work, we are more than just employees, we are a family. We follow the health expert’s guidelines to help stop the spread and hope to contribute to putting an end to this pandemic. We want to ensure that you and your family are safe. In compliance to the health expert’s guidelines with our own COVID safety guidelines we have decided that effective at the end of today all production will be suspended until we can ensure employees are working in a safe environment. All employees must provide proof of a negative test to return to work once production reopens. Please check your work email during this shut down for updates involving work. We advise you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible at the nearest testing site. In the meantime, all employees will be required to use PTO for each day out of work as it is written in our new Pandemic Agreement. We are sorry for this inconvenience. Remember to stay safe and follow our COVID Safety Guidelines below:
- Pay attention to local news and government guidelines
- Practice social distancing with and without mask
- Wear mask when you are not home
- Wash hands frequently and always keep hand sanitizer
- Wipe down things you have finished using with sanitizing wipes
- Avoid large gatherings
- If you suspect you are sick with COVID, DO NOT come to work or gather in large crowds. Get tested right away and quarantine until your results are negative
Once again, we thank you for working so hard during these unprecedented times. We hope you remain safe.
This was the email Human Resources sent to the entire work organization at 8:28 a.m. The time is 10:38 am. “What have we done?” Davis Young says as Lamar Keith, Karl Stanley, and Antonio Thomas stand behind him reading the email from the operator’s public computer. “I knew this was a bad idea! Karl, this is your fault!”
“My fault!?! Nawl homie! You got me messed up!”
“Yes Karl, it is!” Antonio comes to Davis’s defense. “You planned for us to play hooky three weeks ago!”
“But we agreed on it!” Karl says with anger. “Don’t you put this all on me! We followed the safety guidelines that day…well not you Davis. Not all the wa…”
“Ok, stop right there!” Davis interrupts. “Either way, we all had to have come in contact with someone who had it, and one of us is not being honest!”
Lamar finally speaks, “Not me. Hey! It’s just my wife and I, and she works from home.”
“But does she know about you skipping work?” Lamar does not answer Antonio’s question. “I’ve been going from work to home to work minus that one day.”
“Same here” Karl says. “Davis?”
“Me four,” Davis says as the three guys look at him with a straight face. “It was just lunch, that’s all.”
“That’s been trendy with you lately,” Antonio says with a grim. They laugh at each other.
“Look,” Davis interrupts, “we need to get back to work, get tested again when we get off so it can say negative, and we can return back to work in two days.” He puts his mask laying on the table beside the computer on as the others do the same. He reaches for his hard hat, slowly puts it on his head and adjusts it by turning the screw on the chinstrap until it firmly fits his head. He leans back on the computer chair, takes a deep breath but exhales too quickly. This triggers a mild asthma attack. Davis quickly reaches in his uniform pocket for a rescue inhaler. He removes the tiny canister out of its placeholder, shakes vigorously for a few seconds, then puts it back firmly fitting the nozzle into its hole. He pops open the mouthpiece cap and stuffs it in his mouth. As he slowly inhales, he presses down on the canister to administer the aerosol spray of medicine into his lungs. Davis holds his breath for several seconds then exhales. He repeats a second time. This time he has immediate relieve as breathing returns to normal.
“You good my dawg?” Antonio asks as the other two look in fear.
“Yea. Thank God for inhalers.” Davis puts the inhaler back in his pocket, pushes himself off the computer chair with his long arms, and stands up. His 6-foot, 3 inches height, dark skin complexion, and athletic posture hoovers over the other three guys who all are 5 feet, 7 inches in height and brown skin. “All is good. It happens sometimes. Let’s get back to work.”
The time is now 2:15 pm. Davis is in the lead operator’s office sitting down at a table going over today’s paperwork and scheduling for a production shutdown. Suddenly, he hears high heels clapping against the concrete floors from outside of the office with each step. The door opens and in comes Mrs. Trinity Walker. She smiles and walks over to Davis. “It’s that guy!” She sticks out her fist towards him as Davis does the same. They fist pump. Davis notices Trinity’s jet-black wavy afro behind a white headband exposing her perfect hairline. Her jet-black hair shines from the light above. He notices the light also reflects off her light brown, baby oiled forehead as she begins to talk. “Let me put my mask on.” Trinity pulls out a pink mask with gold glitter from her purse and covers her mouth and nose. “It matches my pink business suit and heels.” She models her coke bottle shaped body in front of Davis. As she twirls the aroma of her cocoa butter lotion with a lavender fragrance fills the room. “Do you like? My husband bought all this for my birthday?”
Davis laughs, “Trendy Lady! What brings a manager like you to this peasant’s office? We can’t even get a proper desk.” He lightly shakes the table so Trinity can hear the squeaking of the table legs below. “Leads have to share this table. Does the front office not fit your expertise?” He teases.
“Boy stop! You know I’m one of the guys!” She nudges him on the right shoulder causing him to accidentally make a pen mark error on his paperwork. He looks at her with wide eyes then looks normal. “I’m sorry…but in all seriousness. Did you read the email HR sent this morning?”
“Yeah, it’s crazy, man.”
“Listen, I submitted an anonymous report about three weeks ago on my birthday.” Davis’s attention is now fully focused on Trinity as she continues. “No one is in here, but just to make sure no one hears me…” she powerwalks to the door as her heels clap against the floor with each step then closes the door shut. She gracefully walks back towards Davis. “After we went out for lunch on my birthday, I was sitting at my desk and started to cough. I had a dry cough that did not go away.” She pauses. “Let me ask, did you feel sick or anything over these past two weeks?”
Now is not the time to be honest, Davis. “No,” he replies.
“Well, I believed I had COVID. So, I submitted an anonymous report to HR, left, and got tested. Since I am the Lead Business Accountant for this place, go me, I requested to work from home until I got tested for COVID. Well, two days later my results came back, and it confirmed, I was positive. I’m scared I may have been the one to cause this outbreak.”
“Who all have you been around?”
“It’s crazy, Davis. You know I’m very sociable. Most of the guys came to my office to wish me a happy birthday and gave me gifts before we went out for lunch. Antonio and the guys stopped by for a minute. I couldn’t get anything done because some stayed and talked. It was enough time to spread it around.”
“They all had mask on, I did off and on. You know how I am. I was going to tell you to get tested, but since you’ve been here this whole time and did not get any symptoms, I guess you’re fine.”
“Let’s keep this between you and me. No one has to know…What about your husband?”
“He got tested and came back negative which is odd because we sleep together every night. So did my two little girls, Gracie and Angela. The girls still went to school while I stayed locked up in the bedroom for two weeks. At least I had my streaming shows to watch.” She laughs. “But then this morning I saw this.” She pulls out her phone from inside her business suit jacket and shows Davis a breaking news video from the local news channel.
“Hi! I am Tracy Griffin coming to you live with breaking news outside of the city.” Tracy Griffin’s name appears on the screen in bond white font. The subtitle under her name reads ‘Recipient of the 51st Annual Black News Reporters Award.’ Her face has an extra coating of light brown makeup to match her skin tone. Her hair is dark brown and permed. “The elementary school located southeast of the city has been closed due to a COVID outbreak. We spoke with the school nurse, and she reported thirteen students came to her with what resembled COVID symptoms during normal school hours. It has been reported more students are developing symptoms as I speak. District school leaders are scrambling to find a solution.”
A break in the video goes from the news station to an outside interview with an older black man standing in from the elementary school. He wore thick, black-framed bifocals. Dressed in a beige suit with a white button up shirt and a matching beige tie, he begins talking with his mouth covered by a green mask with a printed red apple slightly tilted on the right side. His name appears in a bold black font inside a red box with the news logo on the left side as Superintendent Charlie Powers, and the subtitle below his name reads The County District No. 1 Head Superintendent. He says with a raspy voice. “It was a tough decision. We do not know if these children have confirmed cases of the Coronavirus at this present moment. Our board had an emergency meeting this morning and decided it is with best interest if we shut down the school and send our children home. We also informed all parents of our decision through voice-activated calls. We are sorry. In the meantime, education must continue. We will move to virtual learning effective tomorrow. All children are encouraged to get on their computers and learn from home.”
The screen goes back to the news station with Tracy Griffin. “We will keep you updated on the latest information we can gather. God bless that school. Now, let’s go to the weather with our chief meteorologist, Justin Cowburger! HI JUSTIN!” The phone screen turns black.
As Trinity puts her phone away, Davis looks down in disbelief. Super spreader!
“Our children go to that same elementary school.”
“Right!” Davis replies. “Just don’t say anything. No one knows how this virus is spreading. These are just guidelines and recommendations the ‘experts’ feel that are safe. Let’s just play this out.”
“Davis, you really are that guy! I feel so much better talking to you because you’re so laid back.” She looks at her smartwatch. “It’s almost time for me to go. Hey Davis! Thanks again for everything. I am so sorry for all of this…by the way, that expensive wine you got me for my birthday was fantastic! My husband loved it just as much as I did! How did you find it at the grocery store?”
“Yeah, see my wife recommended it!”
“Well, she has great taste! If she’s anything like you, we must meet each other. It’s funny how in four years of working together, we only met once. That was at the company Christmas party three years ago, and nothing since then.” She puts her hands on her hips and stands straight at 5 feet, 8 inches, but with high heels on she stands an inch short of 6 feet. Her coke bottle shaped body straightens.
“Schedule never seems to sync, my best guess. Ok, Trendy Lady! It’s time for you to go. I’m trying to get out of here soon.”
“Ok, bye Davis!” She smiles, touches his shoulder, and walks out the door. Without looking, Davis listens for the clapping of her heels against the floor fade away as she walks out the office and shut the door behind her.
The plant closed for three days. Over its course, Davis got tested again and constantly checked his personal email awaiting negative test results. He also checked his work email for any updates about reopening the plant. I’ve had it once, no way I can get it again. In the meantime, his family quarantined upstairs while Davis remained downstairs. He did his fatherly and husband duties by cooking for his family and leaving food at the master and son’s bedroom doors. The food was left in paper plates since it is easily disposable and minimizes the risk of possible contamination. He also left medicine and vitamin D with water for them to take daily.
His family’s main form of communication during those two days was through video chatting on their phones and personal laptops. To also pass the time, he connected his video game console to the downstairs TV playing online multiplayer with random people. One day, he formed a team with some guys he played with in a match. They would become online friends.
Three days after the plant’s closure Davis receives an email at 10:39 am from the 24-hour pharmacy where he got retested for COVID. He opens a page from the click here link. The page quickly opens as Davis begins to scroll to the bottom of the page to find his results.
Based on your second test results, your sample has tested negative for SARS-CoV-2/2019-nCoV confirming no match for the COVID-19 virus.
Davis stops reading and screenshots the page. He forwards it to HR through email. Later than day, he receives a call from HR telling him the plant will reopen tomorrow only for lead operators who have negative test results. Even though it will be Saturday, he is expected to go to work for a few hours to restart reactors and review paperwork before the shutdown.
That night, he drinks the remaining amount of expensive wine he purchased for his wife a week ago. His family’s health has improved, but for safety purposes he makes them quarantine for another day. Davis begins washing dishes when he sees “Breaking News” flash across the TV screen in bold white letters with a bright red background.
“Hi, I am Tracy Griffin reporting to you live with some breaking news out of the town. The mayor has issued a state of emergency as COVID cases have soared over the last two days. Since I reported about the outbreak at the local elementary school three days ago, the town has witnessed its numbers double according to the local hospital.”
The screen switches to a recording of the mayor standing in front of the local hospital with the town’s sheriff standing to the left of him and his wife to the right from earlier that day. They all were wearing white mask with the town’s green emblem on the right side. The name Mayor Ellis Major appears across the screen in bold black font inside a red rectangular box with the news station’s logo on the left side on the screen below him. He is an older black man in his late sixties. He was bald at the top of his head with gray hair on the side trimmed low. He wore thick black bifocals. “Right now, we are declaring a state of emergency for our town. The numbers are too high to continue our day-to-day outdoor activities. We have issued a curfew from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. All public businesses, i.e., grocery stores, library, restaurants, fitness centers, any businesses where crowds congregate will be forced to close at 7 o’clock pm, no questions asked whatsoever. For now, we are looking to reopen under a modified curfew in about two weeks. If you work or travel for work during those hours, you will be safe, but please have an approved signed letter from your workplace with you because our police force will pull you over and will make you go back home if you are out and do not have this letter. Thank you.”
The screen switches back to the news station with Tracy Griffin. “We will keep you updated with more breaking news once as we gather more information. God, bless that town…OKAY! Now, it is time for the weather with our chief meteorologist, Justin Cowburger!” When she turns to the left, her facial expression is surprised! She immediately begins to laugh. “Justin! Is that you dressed in a snorkeling suit!?!?”
“Why yes, it is, Tracy!” Justin says off-camera. The camera pans over to the green screen containing the weather map of the major city and its surrounding cities and towns of its metropolitan area. Justin, a skinny man with low-cut blonde hair is dressing in a black snorkeling suit with snorkeling goggles placed on his forehead. A blue snorkel pike attached to the googles rests on his right shoulder. “Whow!” He empties a fin containing water onto the floor. “Have you seen our ratings lately? We have to do something!” Tracy is laughing hysterically off-camera. “This snorkeling suit is synonymous with the powerful system that’s coming our way from the mountains in the next few hours. Our sister station is reporting torrential rain right now as I speak and looking at some of the images…COWBURGER! It looks like you can barely see what’s in front of you! If you are going out before 7 am you will need more than an umbrella and raincoat. You might need a snorkeling suit like the one I have one right now! (My brother makes these; you can purchase from his online beach shop.) Right now, it is 11:07 pm, and the skies are clear with no stars. However, around 3 am that system will come through bringing enough rain for fish to swim in! I’m talking a foot. A perfect time to reflect from the reflection of yourself on a window. No lightning activity has been detected on our satellite radar, just a downpour. Now, this system will move out of our viewing area around 8 am tomorrow. If you are traveling, please be careful.”
He looks out the kitchen window to see a few raindrops on the outside window. A small raincloud covers the full moon that shines brightly in the night sky. More raindrops begin to hit the outside of the window. He listens for the calm, soothing sound of rain splashing against his house. As the minutes pass, the rain is light and constant with no signs of a downpour. Justin is terrible at his job!
Suddenly, Davis’s thoughts are interrupted by his wife, Dayla. “DAVIS ANDERSON YOUNG!” He turns to the stairs to see his wife standing tall at 5 feet, 8 inches on the last step with her hands on her hips. She is wearing a pink, silky nightgown that shows her hourglass-shaped body. Her jet-black, wavy afro behind a white headband exposes her perfect hairline with a widow’s peak. The light from the top of the stairs reflects off her light brown skin. “DID YOU NOT GET MY TEXT AND CALLS?!?! THE TV IS TOO LOUD! TURN IT OFF AND GO TO BED!” She turns around and stomps up the stairs.
“Well, she’s back to normal.” He grabs his phone lying face down on top of the kitchen island. He enters six numbers on the passcode screen to unlock the screen and notices his phone was on silent with eight text messages notifications and a missed phone call from his wife. He swipes two times to the left and presses the TV remote app with his thumb. From inside the app, he presses the power button that turns the TV off. Then, he closes the app and opens the home security app. He scrolls down to find on-screen light bulbs. He looks for the “Living Room Lights” and presses the yellow bulb until it turns black. This causes the lights in the living room to turn off. He does the same with the kitchen. Then, he sets the security alarm to activate from his phone. He walks over to the couch in the living room and lays down on it. Before he falls asleep, he sets a work alarm for 5:00 am then puts the phone down on the living room table. The soothing sound of raindrops from outside calms Davis as he dozes off to sleep.