Facing an eviction and sole breadwinner in her family, Jolene Hunt must work in spite of asthma that could complicate a coronavirus infection. York Daily Record
Jolene Hunt is the only person in her house who has a job.
Her fiance lost a trucking position in November for health reasons, and the coronavirus closures this month caused her 16-year-old daughter to lose her job at Panera Bread. The family has one car.
So, Hunt works seven days a week, delivering groceries from the Walmart Supercenter in West York, despite an asthma condition that puts her at higher risk for complications if she would contract the coronavirus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “people with asthma may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.” The virus can cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.
“The risks for me don’t outweigh the risks that other people have,” Hunt said Monday.
The other people
Those “other people” are her customers – the elderly and disabled who can’t or shouldn’t be in grocery stores because of the risks they also face. They are her motivation.
Hunt, from Dover, Pennsylvania, had been working 12-hour days before the virus reached the U.S.
She is considered an independent contractor, not a Walmart employee, so she chooses when and how much she will work. Walmart’s limited store hours during this crisis give her only eight hours a day to deliver groceries, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Last week, she took a day off – her first after 32 straight days of work – but worried the whole day about her customers getting their deliveries.
This is a job that gives her purpose, a mission every day to help others.
“It will be a while until I take the day off again, at least until this crisis is over,” she said. “If I am keeping one person from getting sick by going to Walmart, then it’s all worth it.”
This, despite her own illness.
[ The York Daily Record’s coverage of coronavirus is being provided for free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing at ydr.com/subscribe. ]
A partially damaged lung
Diagnosed with asthma at 6, Hunt had it fairly well controlled most of her life, but two years ago, she contracted pneumonia and ended up in the hospital. It damaged a small portion of her left lung, she said.
Since then, she always carries her inhaler while delivering groceries and needs it when she carries a big pack of water bottles up a set of stairs. She’s 45.
Her doctor suggested his asthma patients self-isolate for 12 weeks, “and I said there’s just no way I can do that.”
“I will not let my asthma hold me down,” she said.
Hunt knows the risks for being in contact with others. She considered wearing a face mask on her rounds, but she thought it would scare her customers, giving them the impression she was carrying the virus, she said.
Stocked up on hand sanitizer, she uses it before and after handling each bag of goods. Walmart employees load her car’s trunk with groceries, remaining a safe distance from her.
“I wouldn’t say I’m not worried about getting the virus; I’m just not thinking about it 24/7,” she said. “Stress will kill you faster than the virus.”
Working doesn’t feel like a choice at this point. If she doesn’t work, she’ll lose her house. She may be evicted anyway.
“I’ve always said if I could sleep in my car and shower at a friend’s house, I’d do that,” she said. “I’m just worried about my daughter.”
Relying on tips
Hunt’s landlord took her to court March 12, looking for $2,300 in rent, but she didn’t have it, she said. The court gave her 30 days to come up with the money.
Last week, President Trump suspended all foreclosures and evictions until the end of April to help people affected by the virus, but the court order was delivered to Hunt prior to the president’s decree. Either way, she and her family could be forced out of their home. She hopes that if she can provide her landlord with some of the money, he may give her leeway.
As an independent contractor, she’s paid $7 per delivery she makes. She doesn’t receive a mileage stipend, and when two orders are picked up at the same time – it’s called a batch order – she receives $10.50 for making two separate stops.
“That’s why we heavily rely on tips,” she said. “There are some days, I’ve only made $48, and there are days I can make $110.”
Seven days a week.
“It’s all going to help us not lose our house,” she said.
Kim Strong can be reached at email@example.com.
Read or Share this story: https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2020/03/24/facing-eviction-walmart-delivery-driver-keeps-working-despite-asthma-high-risk-coronavirus/2899399001/