The worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic may be behind us here in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down.
New stories are emerging daily about the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus. This variant can have grave consequences for those who are not vaccinated because it is highly contagious and can cause serious harm to those who catch it.
COVID safety guidelines are constantly changing, but here are some general steps we can all take this summer to do our part as responsible citizens:
For your safety and the safety of those around you, it is important to get the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, if you have not done so already.
The vaccine is well-researched and safe to receive. Everyone should receive the vaccination to lower the chances of not only contracting the virus, but also bringing it home to their families and communities. Being fully vaccinated will also reduce your risk of severe symptoms related to the Delta variant.
When choosing a mask, look at how well it fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has. Be sure your mask fits snugly against your face.
Choose a mask with a nose wire, a metal strip along the top of the mask, to prevent air from leaking out the top. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and out around the edges of the mask.
Wash your hands frequently, cough and sneeze into your elbow, and keep surfaces clean. If you are sick, stay home from work and notify your employer.
The health and safety of our brothers and sisters in Local 1167 always comes first. That is why we were disappointed to learn that recent guidelines from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) failed to include mention of frontline grocery, drug and meatpacking workers.
This is an egregious oversight.
These rules should include regular workplace safety inspections at grocery stores, meatpacking plants and health care facilities to ensure employers are held accountable for protecting their workers on the job.
The current rules are unenforceable and insufficient — we need strong language from the federal government that prioritizes the safety of these workers who have bravely kept our communities functioning during the past year.
More than 160 million Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccine at press time and the country is slowly relaxing some of the restrictions that were necessary to limit spread of the disease.
In light of the new CDC guidelines on masks for fully vaccinated people announced on May 13, many feel confident we are getting closer to a time when we can go out and enjoy life as we did prior to March 2020.
Getting all the way “back to normal,” however, will require higher rates of acceptance and use of the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Here are a few reasons to trust the effectiveness of the vaccines if you are still on the fence about receiving one:
• Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from getting sick. These vaccines are incredibly effective, providing as much as 96 percent protection against getting sick from the virus. They perform even better than that in preventing severe complications leading to hospitalization and even possible death.
• More vaccinations would protect everyone. Anyone from age 12 and up can enjoy peace of mind after they’ve been vaccinated. When enough people get their COVID-19 vaccines, the country can attain “herd immunity,” suppressing the number of infections so well that even those few who aren’t immunized won’t get the disease. Only when enough people are vaccinated can we truly say we’ve defeated COVID-19.
• The COVID-19 vaccine development was fast, but it did not skip steps and was not developed overnight. The vaccines were developed at an accelerated rate and were approved quickly by the Food and Drug Administration. Nevertheless, they were made using technologies that have been tested and found safe for many years. None of the vaccines contain the actual virus.
• Even if you’ve already had COVID-19, you still should get the vaccine. The vaccine will add extra protection to your immune system should you be exposed to COVID-19 again.
Consult with a doctor about taking the vaccine if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have fertility concerns. The vaccines are safe for breastfeeding mothers and do not harm a woman’s ability to become pregnant.
After receiving shot(s), you might temporarily experience a sore arm, a mild fever or body aches, but this doesn’t mean you have COVID-19. These symptoms, if they happen at all, typically last a day or two. They signal a natural response as your body’s immune system learns to recognize and fight the coronavirus.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, but its consequences for working women have been especially severe.
Let’s just consider the closing of schools and day care centers. By September of 2020, roughly 865,000 women dropped out of the labor force compared with 216,000 men, according to a report published by the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress. The report estimated that women would lose $64.5 billion in the first year of the pandemic due to lost wages and economic activity.
A Washington Post article pointed out that “[o]ne out of four women who reported becoming unemployed during the pandemic said it was because of a lack of child care — twice the rate among men.” In August, a story on CNN led with “Working mothers are quitting to take care of their kids, and the U.S. job market may never be the same.”
All this and more points to the necessity of ending this crisis as soon as possible. And the best — and only — way we can do that is by getting vaccinated.
While it’s a personal choice to get a vaccination, doing so will sharply reduce an individual’s chances of getting sick or spreading the virus to family members, coworkers and the community at large.
Here are some facts to assure you the vaccines are thoroughly researched and safe to receive:
• The vaccines do not contain the virus and cannot transmit the disease.
• They don’t change anyone’s DNA in an any way, and there’s no evidence that they affect pregnancies or cause infertility.
• Tens of millions of people around the world have taken these vaccines with no side effects beyond minor soreness or fatigue. These effects are usually resolved within two days and are worthwhile considering a vaccine could save your life.
A very small number of people may react allergically to the vaccine, so it is a good idea for those with a history of medical allergies to remain close to the vaccination location for 15 minutes following the injection. After 1.9 million vaccinations in the first round of shots, there were only 29 adverse reactions.
• The vaccines are made using technology which has been developed over many years and is proven to be safe.
Just as we have all worn masks, practiced social distancing and washed our hands over the past year, we must also receive the required doses of the vaccine in order to help the U.S. reach herd immunity and get the spread of the virus under control.
Talk to your health care provider about when you may be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It won’t cost you a penny, but it could save you a bundle!
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States and the first requests from state and local authorities to follow social distancing guidelines, Americans have been living, working and educating their children at home all day, every day.
While some may have residences with enough space to make being so close together easier to manage, others do not and are forced to carry on living nearly on top of one another from one day to the next.
This sudden and drastic change in lifestyle can create challenges that easily lead to feeling frustrated and angry. When tempers boil over, tensions between people can quickly manifest as aggressive behaviors and physical confrontations. Additionally, the pressures the pandemic can have on individuals may aggravate preexisting conflicts, amplifying their effects in ways that magnify their frequency and intensity.
The pandemic has created enough tension and strife for individuals to face. Seeking shelter from the outbreak in a home where aggressive or violent behaviors exist or have begun to manifest can add to the stress and anxiety many are already struggling to manage.
No one should have to live with the fear of a spouse, partner, family member, friend or roommate physically harming you or someone else in the home.
While reports indicate there has been a spike in domestic violence in American homes, it’s important to know that state and local communities are working to provide support to those in need.
Some areas have launched special messaging services to help those affected quickly and quietly connect with the departments and organizations that can help move them to safer spaces. Other areas have updated their domestic violence support services to manage the challenges of providing care during this national health emergency.
If you are concerned you may be in an escalating or already violent situation, know that you are not alone in this emergency and assistance is available. The resources listed below will help you better understand what is happening and what steps you can take to find a resolution without creating additional conflict.
If you need assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 or (800) 787-3224 (a TTY-ready line for those who require hearing-related or speech-related assistance).
If you are unable to speak freely, you can get assistance by visiting www.thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.
In addition, support services are available to UFCW Local 1167 members through the Employee Member Assistance Program (EMAP). Call (800) 464-7101 for confidential service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With outside temperatures soaring and with many workers wearing more PPE than their job would usually require, it is more important than ever this year that employers and workers stay vigilant about preventing heat illness at work.
The use of personal protection equipment (PPE) to keep workers safe from COVID-19 is essential for public safety, but does increase the chance of overheating. The use of PPE may trap heat and perspiration on the body’s surface and increase the core body temperature to dangerous levels. Given the dual challenge of moderating the risks of heat stress and exposure to COVID-19, it’s imperative that employers take measures to protect workers who are exposed to heat. For example, employers may need to supply replacement masks more often, since masks may get damp and contaminated in the heat and humidity.
To prevent heat illness, employers should make sure all workers should have access to:
• Adequate amounts of drinking water.
• Regular rest breaks or rest periods in a cool area.
• Regular bathroom breaks, as necessary.
• Increased air circulation through the use of air conditioning, fans and general ventilation.
• Education on the early signs of heat-related illness.
• Time to acclimatize to the heat. It takes about one week for the body to adjust to working in the heat.
Hot weather safety strategies should include:
• Training all management and hourly employees with an emphasis on how to recognize a medical emergency (heat stroke).
• Having a clearly written protocol on how to respond to a medical emergency.
• Training all management and hourly employees on workers’ right to access drinking water, as needed, and the right to access bathrooms, as needed.
• Monitoring particularly hot work areas and a plan in place for when the heat index approaches the extreme caution zone.
Two major heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion, if left untreated, may progress to deadly heat stroke. The symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are listed below:
Heat stroke symptoms
1. Throbbing headache
2. No sweating
3. Body temp above 103°
Red, hot, dry skin
4. Nausea, vomiting
5. Rapid, strong pulse
6. May lose consciousness
How to treat it
1. Move to cooler location
2. Drink water
3. Take a cool shower or use cold compresses
Heat exhaustion symptoms1. Faint or dizzy
How to treat it
1. Get emergency help
2. Keep cool until treated
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
The CDC also advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under the age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance.
They should be routinely washed depending on the frequency of use. A washing machine should be enough to wash a face
Below are a couple of ways you can make a face covering at home.
Making a sewn cloth face covering
1. Cut out two 10-by-6-inch rectangles of cotton fabric. Use tightly woven cotton, such as quilting fabric or cotton sheets. T-shirt fabric will work in a pinch. Stack the two rectangles; you will sew the cloth face covering as if it was a single piece of fabric.
2. Fold over the long sides 1⁄4 inch and hem. Then fold the double layer of fabric over 1⁄2 inch along the short sides and stitch down.
3. Run a 6-inch length of 1/8-inch wide elastic through the wider hem on each side of the cloth face covering. These will be the ear loops. Use a large needle or a bobby pin to thread it through. Tie the ends tight. Don’t have elastic? Use hair ties or elastic head bands. If you only have string, you can make the ties longer and tie the cloth face covering behind your head.
4. Gently pull on the elastic so that the knots are tucked inside the hem. Gather the sides of the cloth face covering on the elastic and adjust so the mask fits your face. Then securely stitch the elastic in place to keep it from slipping.
Bandana face covering (no sew method)
1. Fold bandana in half.
2. Fold top down. Fold bottom up.
3. Place rubber bands or hair ties about 6 inches apart.
4. Fold sides to the middle and tuck.
With February and March being Black History and Women’s History months, we feel this is a good time to share the story of Addie Wyatt (1924-2012).
Wyatt was a founding member of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and the first woman international vice president of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters Union. After her union merged with the Retail Clerks Union to form the United Food and Commercial Workers in 1979, she became the first woman of color to serve on the new union’s board.
She also was a recipient of the UFCW’s Women’s Network’s Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1941, when she went to work at the Armour meat processing plant in Chicago, Wyatt applied for a job as a typist. But Armour didn’t hire African Americans to work in its front offices at the time. Instead, she was assigned to the canning department, putting lids on cans of Army stew.
Thanks to the union contract between Armour and United Packinghouse Workers, however, she was able to earn more working on the packinghouse floor in three days than she would have made in a week working in the front office as a secretary. So she decided to accept the job and subsequently became an active member of the UPW.
In the early 1950s, Wyatt was elected as vice president of her local union, UPW Local P-56, and was soon elected president. The next year, she left her job at the packinghouse to work full time for the union, fighting against discrimination for both women and people of color.
Wyatt said she often found herself fighting on three fronts. “I was fighting on behalf of workers, fighting as a black person and fighting as a female,” she said.
Because of its large, activist membership, the UPW was able to wield real power at the bargaining table, and it was able to use this power to benefit society at large. The UPW was deeply involved in Chicago’s community-based struggle for racial equality.