Before the COVID-19 outbreak, I had just begun teaching a class at the Westchester Department of Facilities. In my first week of teaching, I had a blast shaking hands and getting to know the participants. That was February 28th.
My second week in, the handshakes were replaced with elbow bumps, and break time was spent washing my hands.
The third week in, we were told Westchester was going in lock-down, immediately! Some participants left but most finished the day.
Despite the quarantine, I’ve kept in touch with some members from the team. The Westchester County’s Department of Environmental Facilities did an incredible job of adjusting to the new circumstances by creating two longer shifts with no cross-pollination between. They were working every single day to keep residents safe. Only three people in the entire organization got sick, and all three recovered.
Companies can learn a lot from their protocols. Their success is a result of strong leadership that provided clear direction, took quick action, and communicated continuously.
The changes in our lives due to COVID-19 were implemented at a rapid pace. It seemed like there was never any time to get used to “the new normal” before the virus continued to escalate, and more restrictions were put in place. Nevertheless, essential workers, such as those of the Westchester DEF, adapted swiftly to suit their community’s needs.
Keith May, one of the essential workers of the DEF I have the pleasure of knowing, wrote the following in a letter that shines a light on all that essential workers do to help make our lives easier. His words are eye-opening:
“The essential workers for DEF always show up to work no matter how bad the circumstances are. We are there during every snowstorm no matter how bad the roadways are. We are there during every super storm, every hurricane, every brownout and every blackout providing emergency essential services to the residents of Westchester County.
Our essential workers are there on even the most special of days. While most of the residents are home on Thanksgiving Day eating turkey and watching football, we are here operating the County’s treatment plants. When you are home with your families on Christmas Day opening presents, we are here operating machinery and making adjustments to our different treatment processes. When you are gathered at Times Square watching the ball drop, we are walking the plants and making rounds. When most residents are home and social distancing during the COVID 19 pandemic we are here treating the wastewater for any virus, parasitic or pathogen-like material that may enter the waste stream.”
I want to shine a light on the everyday heroes that adapted to the challenges the virus has brought upon us. So many people around us (maybe you’re one of them) were able to quickly make adjustments so they could continue to provide the services we need. Let’s honor those that don’t usually get the recognition they deserve – your garbage men, your town maintenance, your mailman, anyone who takes the time out of their day to work behind the scenes to make your life just a little easier. They’re kind of a big deal!
Connect with one of these workers today (from a distance!) They may not have the most glamorous jobs, but they work hard for your benefit. They deserve our utmost respect.
Stay safe and keep virtually connecting!