Truck drivers and more unsung heroes of the coronavirus pandemic

As media outlets around the world race to cover vital angles of the coronavirus crisis, much attention has been paid to health care workers — and rightfully so. But in most of that coverage, the work of other essential workers — such as sanitation personnel, grocery store clerks and truck drivers — has largely gone unrecognized.

Crissy Becker

© Provided by CBS News Crissy Becker, an American truck driver on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis.

And as Crissy Becker, a truck driver for Maine’s Blevin Logistics, tells CBS News, that’s a travesty.

“I’m a mom,” she writes. “Instead of going home, I stayed out driving my truck sometimes 24 hours at a time, lately six weeks. So y’all got what you need. And there are hundreds of thousands more like me but instead of going home are running until we can’t see straight in our tracks.”

Despite all her long hours and hard work, Becker said she feels disrespected as workers from other industries get the lion’s share of recognition on news broadcasts for their contribution to the coronavirus fight.

“We are one of the only things keeping [the] economy as alive as it is,” she writes. “I’m not normally one to complain. I love my job. But we constantly were with disrespect when nothing’s going on and now that we are driving sometimes three days at a time with few hours [of] sleep. Just thought I would put a picture to show you the face of one of many giving up their entire life and staying out here putting ourselves at risk of the COVID-19. So y’all can have what you need. My hat goes off to the rest of us.”

On March 14, a trucker from Little Rock, Arkansas, named Shannon Newton, echoed that sentiment, tweeting: “If you see a truck driver this week, please thank them. They are putting in long hours, under stressful circumstances, to ensure life’s essentials get restocked. Truck drivers are often taken for granted. But in times like these, we are reminded of their hero status.”

On March 16, Jessica Hernandez, whose father-in-law is a truck driver tweeted, “These past weeks he has seen a high request for more hauls. They are the ones restocking stores with toilet paper, bottled waters, etc. He is also immunocompromised as many truck drivers are. They put their lives at risk for the sake of us.”

“My grandpa has been a proud truck driver for over 40 years. The truth is truck drivers, like my grandpa, are the reason we continue to have access to basic necessities despite the worsening #COVID-19 pandemic,” Twitter user @LashNolen chimed in. “Their decision to drive maintains our livelihood. #hiddenheroes.”

Now, as dining rooms around the nation close in an effort to flatten the curve of coronavirus, there’s a movement on social media asking other drivers to step in and make sure that truckers are able to get food when they’re on the road.

“If you happen to be sitting in your car eating because the dining room is closed, & see a truck driver attempt to pull on a door, please ask if you can buy them a meal,” the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department tweeted on Wednesday. “Most places do not allow walk ups, and their rigs usually don’t fit. We owe them that much!”

Earlier this week, a viral tweet from a man named Aaron Meier opened Americans’ eyes to yet another type of essential worker often overlooked amid the coronavirus crisis — garbage collectors.

“I can’t work from home and my job is an essential city service that must get done,” the garbageman from San Francisco tweeted. “It’s a tough job, from getting up pre-dawn to the physical toll it takes on my body to the monotonous nature of the job, at times it’s hard to keep on going. Right now though, right now I am feeling an extra sense of pride and purpose as I do my work. I see the people, my people, of my city, peeking out their windows at me. They’re scared, we’re scared. Scared but resilient. Us garbagemen are gonna keep collecting the garbage… It’s gonna be OK, we’re gonna make it be OK.”

That tweet has now been liked more than 450,000 times and the thousands of responses it elicited have opened the door for people to shout out still more underappreciated essential workers.

“I feel you! I’m a city bus driver,” replied Twitter user @coastaln8v73, a public transportation worker from the pacific northwest. “People are still depending on us to get them where they need to go. We will do what we gotta do. Stay safe, man.”

“I’m a mailman. Feeling much the same as you,” wrote Kevin Lindamer. “Keep up the good work and may you and yours stay healthy and safe.”

“I work in a grocery store pharmacy, can’t do it from home either,” another response reads. “We are trying our best, the other day I went 9 hours without sitting down or taking a break.”

It’s an important reminder to acknowledge the people who keep our world running smoothly, even in the face of unprecedented circumstances. And much like truck drivers, grocery store workers play a crucial role in keeping the shelves stocked.

In recognition of that, states like Minnesota and Vermont have now moved to classify grocery store clerks and stockers as emergency workers. Doing so will ensure they have access to much-needed childcare as they work to serve and feed the rest of us.

These are the people keeping our streets clean and our stores shelves stocked — an outward sign that the American supply chain is still intact, and key players in keeping an already-stressed population calm. They are putting in long hours away from their families and risking exposure to coronavirus — all because, heralded or not, they are very much essential.

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