…well, sort of, but not really. They tried, but there weren’t going to be enough masks to go around, and the people who work in the admin building are much more important than the cargo employees who accept freight, load aircraft, and have contact with the general public.

In short, the company took action in a way that was completely on-brand for them: an attempt was made for a few brief hours at halting the spread of the contagion. Here’s how it went down.

Tuesday, 3:45 pm

One of my perpetually ailing subordinates is sent home because they feel and look extremely unwell. They complained of chest pains and shortness of breath, and were having trouble safely navigating stairs.

Upon visiting a clinic, they were diagnosed with a host of ailments and tested for the dreaded virus– thus beginning a seven day quarantine while waiting for the test to come back.

Wednesday, 8:15 am

Human resources gets wind of the employee who is undergoing testing and all hell breaks loose. It’s suggested that the entire cargo department needs to be under quarantine until the test comes back, because everyone in the department has had enough contact with the quarantined employee to have caught the virus.

This is a fairly legitimate argument. The cargo offices are a cramped, crowded, filthy environment which no amount of cleaning will ever fix (trust me, I’ve tried.) Social distancing is not even remotely feasible, and no effort has been made to do so. If one of us catches it, most of us will probably have it in short order.

8:45 am

The panic continues, spreading from Human Resources to upper management in the admin building.

“Are you suggesting we close up shop and go home?”

This would bring freight movement at our location to a dead standstill and cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars a day. Faced with this quandary, those calling for immediate quarantine back down. Still, something needs to be done.

When asked for protective gear, the company’s senior safety officer’s response is swift and decisive: “What the f*ck do you expect me to do about it?!”

Grudgingly, after a prolonged argument, a box of face masks is produced and distributed to those who work in cargo. We’re ordered to wear them any time we have contact with customers or visit the admin building.

9:15 am

The assistant safety officer visits the cargo warehouse, and clarifies our instructions: we must all wear our masks all of the time. We are being considered contagious.

Much complaining ensues. The masks don’t fit larger faces, or those with facial hair, and they chafe a lot more than you’d expect. Groups of cargo handlers in oil-stained Carhartts and white paper masks trudge through the warehouse, eyes downcast, looking grimly reminiscent of the workers sent to clean up in the aftermath of the Chernobyl meltdown.

10:30 am

Management comes through cargo and takes our masks back. “There was a mistake. There aren’t enough masks to go around, and people in the admin building complained.”

“But now that we’ve used these, no one else can use them.”

It doesn’t matter. The masks we were given are confiscated, and we’re told not to wear masks, especially in the admin building.

You see, the company doesn’t have enough masks– and those we have are reserved for essential personnel. Upper management doesn’t feel that the lowly employees who accept freight from the public and load aircraft fit the definition of “essential.”

Reactions range from amusement to outrage. The morning’s events are sadly typical for our employer’s level of preparedness for this kind of event; were this ebola or something else with a higher assured mortality rate, many of us would die. Unfortunately for us, that’s a risk the company is willing to take.

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