Employed Mason Students Face Changes During COVID-19 Outbreak

Undergraduate students adjust to new shifts in jobs, unemployment


With recent changes across the Mason community and nationally, students who hold jobs are adjusting to their new lives amidst COVID-19.

According to the official website of the Commonwealth of Virginia, non-essential businesses had to close their doors by 11:59 p.m. on March 24. The Labor Department announced on Thursday that 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits the week of March 16. 

Restaurants remain open for takeout and delivery services, but are otherwise closed to customers. Specific retail businesses — such as grocery and home improvement stores — are also open. 

For students at Mason, these new shifts have affected their jobs in a myriad of ways. Some have lost work, while others continue — both from home and at their place of business. 

“After more and more coverage about COVID-19, business slowed at the restaurant that I was working [at] as a busser/server,” sophomore Shyloh-Symone Bailey said in an email to Fourth Estate. “I received a text while at work that hours are being cut and we would no longer be able to come to work until business picked back up.” 

The day after, Bailey received a text from the supervisor at her internship at Specialty Graphics Imaging Association, a printing association based in Fairfax. 

“Not to my surprise, she told me that the entire office was going to telework but those higher up decided to cut my paid internship short because they said they cannot supervise me from home,” she said. 

“I am a pretty resilient person but a lot crumbled under me at once so I just need some time to strategize then make my next move,” she said. “I’m very grateful for the friends and family I do have.”

Students who have not lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 have seen their work change in other ways. 

“I work at [a hospital] as a security guard, so I haven’t lost my job or anything,” senior Lima Shekib said in a message. Shekib requested that the name of the hospital not be disclosed in order to protect her job. The hospital is currently on lockdown, meaning that she has worked more hours than usual due to the increased need for officers.

“The first few cases of COVID-19 [in Virginia] came to this hospital [because] it’s the biggest in the area … So [it] pretty much went into lockdown to stop the risk of spreading the virus around,” Shekib explained. “With visitors coming in and out, the hospital would be pretty crowded and that would defeat the whole notion of social distancing. It’s a lot easier to manage the whole situation if you know who’s coming in and out of the place.”

Freshman Luke Black — who works within the Office of Admissions as an intern for the Washington Scholars Program — has a federal work-study. Instead of working in the office, he is now working from home, which has been a challenge with his limited internet connection. 

“There have been a lot of challenges, since I don’t have internet at home and have to work off my hotspot which doesn’t work half of the time,” Black wrote in a message. “There haven’t been many advantages other than [to] be able to sleep in a bit more and change my hours to more manageable times since I don’t have to get ready and walk to and from the office anymore.” 

Black also works at the on-campus Manhattan Pizza, which he will not be able to return to until fall since he is now back home for the rest of the semester.