Denisse San Elias

Denisse San Elias, who was a senior in kinesiology and health at Iowa State University, has worked for Hy-Vee since December 2016. 

Editor's note: This is part of a contributed collection of students and faculty experience with COVID-19. 

Across the world, countries have faced a new reality after the spread of COVID-19. Lockdowns, quarantine and social distancing became the standard. 

March 26, the United States surpassed China as the nation with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Many Americans continue to work from home and have orders to shelter in place. 

However, millions of essential employees leave their homes to go to work and are at increased risk of exposure. 

Denisse San Elias, who was a senior in kinesiology and health at Iowa State, has worked for Hy-Vee since December 2016. 

She said at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, employees were not supplied with masks or gloves and had to wait for hand sanitizer to become available again in their orders. 

“I feel worried that I may catch the virus because everyone comes in to buy groceries. Every little item someone may touch can be contaminated,” San Elias said. “I feel a bit more confident now because glass windows are on registers.”

Her usual work was in general merchandise and health, beauty and care. Since COVID-19 became a pandemic, her position switched to an online shopper. Every shift, she shops for online orders due to the fulfillment center closure.

San Elias said Hy-Vee elevated their precautions by providing protective materials for employees and customers. They added one-way arrows to guide shoppers through the aisles and placements on the floor that request people to stay six feet apart. 

San Elias also balances changes in her life outside of work. 

On March 18, Iowa State announced the extension of virtual instruction through the end of the spring semester.

“I have to stay home, try to stay focused, motivate myself when there are so many distractions,” San Elias said. “The school atmosphere just isn’t there anymore.”

San Elias said she missed the feeling of actually being in college, where she made memories and connections with others. She said there were things about campus she thought she wouldn’t have to miss: class, friends, late night studying and dancing for the Iowa State Hip Hop Club. 

“In order for us to get back to where we were, we need to work as a community and continue to practice social distancing,” San Elias said.

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