BLOT GRAPHIC BY DANI McLAUGHLIN
A classic coming of age moment for many high schoolers is getting a job. It’s a sign of independence and maturity, as well as a chance to make money on your own. But now, as many things have been, this experience has been put on hold by COVID-19.
Strict safety guidelines put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 brought about the closure of all businesses deemed to be “non-essential” on March 21. Recreational and entertainment businesses such as gyms, malls, beauty salons and barbershops were forced to temporarily suspend their operations.
“For the month of April, my boss wasn’t hiring any of us because of the regulations in New Jersey,” said junior Erin Burke of Allentown, who works at a local ice cream shop. “But as of this Saturday [May 23] I’m returning to work with strict safety regulations, and we don’t have a storefront, we just have a window.”
For students like Burke that are employed at essential businesses, there are amplified precautions taken to prevent falling ill.
Junior Steve Ostrom of Lincroft works at Frutta Bowls preparing food. The business was also closed but was recently able to reopen after being deemed essential.
“We always have to wear gloves 100% of the time,” Ostrom said. “Usually it’s only when we are making orders, but now we always have to wear them. We also always have to wear masks.”
Non-essential retail by curbside pickup and outdoor recreational businesses were allowed to re-open May 18 and 22 respectively.
While some students have been able to return to work, many others are up in the air about the current landscape of their jobs. With New Jersey being one of the remaining states in the nation with strict stay at home orders, summer jobs across the board are looking uncertain.
“I was going to work at the Deep Blue Boutique on Jenkinson’s Boardwalk and I’m really disappointed that my first job is being postponed,” said freshman Amanda Riordan of Manasquan. “I also have to change a lot of plans that were dependent on the budget I would have if I had a job this summer.”
For now, it seems that the best anyone can do is try to look at the bright side of the situation.
“I really like my job, so it was really hard to look forward to it and not be able to go back, and also it just sucks that I’m not making money for the time that I would be,” Burke said. “But other than that it’s not that big of a deal because I’m in high school, it’s not like I’m losing my livelihood over an ice cream store not being able to open.”