Perspective - NJ Worker, Actively Employed

Despite rising U.S. cases of Coronavirus, one PSEG employee remains on the job
by Katalyst International contributor Montana Peschler
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With over 2.7 million confirmed Coronavirus cases worldwide, 890,000 plus in the United States, unemployment spiked and over 26 million Americans have applied. The select essential business employees who are still working, now follow newly updated precautions in order to remain safe. Life and the economy are fluctuating but one Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) employee who reads meters in Essex County New Jersey, is still out on the job.
PSEG, an energy company headquartered in Newark New Jersey, is allowing employees to continue work with a steady paycheck allotting new safety standards. Jay, a made-up name for the employee who wishes to remain anonymous, has been with the company for two years. However, New Jersey has nearly 100,000 cases and neighboring New York City, who has over a whopping 263,000. 
Meter reading entails the collection of information from the meter itself to see what physical changes occurred. A meter can read gas, electricity and liquid, which can usually be found in or near a home or building. In America, a meter reader employee can receive a steady income without a college education. According to Glassdoor, a company review site, an average meter reader employee salary in the United States is $32,554.
Jay believes PSEG is treating their employees fairly during the pandemic, as he is still getting paid the same amount for working less hours.
“They only want us reading outside meters, that’s it,” Jay said. “We are not to go into apartments, buildings or any businesses. “Strictly outside meters and no customer interaction.”
Although Jay is still working and receiving his normal income, he is adjusting to a shorter work day.
“They don’t want us out there. [A typical work day] they want us working five and a half hours, now by 12 o’clock [p.m.] whether you are done or not [the company tells us to] come back.”
Similar to many Americans, Jay is taking the proper precautions when working and returning home. After work, he immediately showers and understands if he goes out anywhere aside from work, he is putting his family at risk.
With work ending early and now sleeping majority of the day, Jay misses social interaction and his normal routine sleep schedule. When he finishes up work early, he is getting home while most temporarily unemployed Americans due to COVID-19 are just waking up. Self-quarantine after a brief day on the job, entails a day long nap ahead since there is not much else to do.
“I can’t sleep at night when I have to and at five o’clock in the morning, I’m tossing and turning and my alarm goes off at six,” he said. “All it’s doing is making me sleep the day away.”
During a time of isolation, mental health can become a heavy topic for some individuals. Americans who are not working and remaining at home with limited social interaction can experience heightened anxiety and fear, especially revolving around physical health and the virus. Jay is thankful he does not necessarily suffer from anxiety, but knows individuals that do and who have been impacted by the virus. He however, feels healthy.
“Mental health I feel alright, physical health I feel alright,” he said.
Jay is an outgoing person who is thankful for still being able to work. He is one that considers himself a younger healthier individual who is in his late twenties, yet understands how impactful the pandemic can be as he lives at home with his two younger brothers. He emphasized how he one day hopes he can put this in the past and get on with socializing and life. He is not afraid.
“Social interaction to me is like jumping in a pool. I’m going to do it, I don’t care. I’m not scared [but] I should be careful,” Jay said. “I’m me.”
The question begs, will affected Americans be starved for social interaction, or scared? According to Stat News, health experts say that Americans are not comprehending how long Coronavirus disruptions will last. It is proven that social distancing lowers the spread of the virus. Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Thomas Frieden, said in a Stat News article that “decisions to reopen society should not be about a date, but about the data.”
Despite the virus, Jay remains a healthy American and one of the few who is still working. As he continues to take the proper safety precautions while working for PSEG, he seems rather starved for social interaction even in one of the highest infected states in the U.S.
“[Sooner or later] I’m going to be surrounded by people,” he said. “And think ‘oh wait we were in a pandemic last month.’”