College Students in Foodservice Express Frustration over Mask Mandate Lift

By: Mia Rodriguez

After an executive order was made by Texas Governor, Greg Abbott, the mask mandate everywhere in Texas was officially lifted, March 2nd, 2021. A lot of Texans were confused and alarmed, not knowing if people will be able to keep safe with the new order. The lift raised concern on the topic of safety in the work environment, especially when it came to food service workers and their health.

Jordin Ramirez, a full-time college student at Victoria College located in Victoria, Texas, works a part-time job at her local McDonald’s. Ramirez shares how stressful her work environment has been since the mask mandate was lifted, stating that she has “about reached her limit in patience.”  

After Governor Greg Abbott announced that the mask mandate will be officially lifted and that all businesses and companies in Texas will be opened to 100% capacity at the beginning of March, college-level students working in food service have expressed concern on how restaurants and fast-food chains will provide a safe environment for not only the customers, but for themselves.

“Even with most fast-food places still requiring masks to be worn, my McDonald’s included, there are multiple people who still come into the place without a mask and make a scene over wearing one,” Ramirez says, “It takes a toll on a person being cussed out at for just wanting the environment that you work in to be safe, especially when you are already a full-time student and can’t really afford to get sick.”

With Texas being a predominantly “red” state, there have been many conservative Texans protesting wearing masks throughout the early stages of the pandemic in 2020 which led to the COVID-19 virus to skyrocket in cases. With Greg Abbott being a past member of the Republican party, he shared and voiced the same views as the Texans who were “anti-mask,” making claims after reopening Texas on how “we must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent,” even though cases were still at a high.

“It was never about our safety,” Jimmy Nolden, a sophomore at Texas State University and a current server at Cracker Barrel in San Marcos, Texas, shares, “It’s just about opening Texas back to normal even though we all knowingly have not gotten to that point yet.” Working at Cracker Barrel, Nolden has seen how the views of older Texans and college-level students differ when it comes to wearing a mask. “The people who come in that look about my age never have an issue with being respectful towards the workers and customers by wearing a mask, but for some reason a lot of the elderly customers that come in, some of them even sporting Trump gear, always make a fuss, and end up getting really mad at us when asked to wear one,” Nolden states.

Many young students working in fast food and food service throughout the pandemic in Texas have outwardly expressed how the attitude of customers due to the mask mandate lift has affected them, many stating on social platforms that they have quit just because of the lift and the fear of sickness that could potentially come with it.

Jen Garcia, a senior at Texas State University, is currently working at Firehouse Subs in Kyle, Texas, and had a lot to say on how she has been treated by customers.

“Yeah, sometimes it would be hard to keep composure when all you want to do is talk back to customers… but when it comes to my health and my coworker’s health it’s a completely different story,” Garcia states. Receiving attitude from customers is something that Garcia endures a lot, and knows that even before the pandemic, people were just as disrespectful to foodservice workers, including herself. “If you want to come in making a scene about a mask, you might as well just not step a foot into the restaurant at all. What’s the point of putting everyone who is working to make your food at risk for the virus along with yourself? It just doesn’t make sense,” Garcia expresses, more concerned about the lack of care that customers had for foodservice workers health throughout the pandemic more so than the stubbornness and disrespect.

Analytics – Vaccination Information, Mask Poll, Vaccine Administration Locations

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Photo Assignment: Mask Requirements in the Workplace and in Public

When it comes to mask requirements, facilities and workplaces everywhere in San Marcos, TX are staying true to them despite the mask mandate order being lifted early March of 2021.

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A shot of Charlie, an Icy Rolls employee, answering a customers questions about the ice cream flavors. PC: Mia Rodriguez

Despite the mask mandate lift, Icy Rolls and their employees stay strict when it comes to masking-up; especially since the employees work with their hands around food.

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A wide shot of customers cooling off at the San Marcos Premium Outlet. Despite the hot weather, David and Eugene (pictured in the shot above), are making sure to take health precautions out in public, and are masked-up. PC: Mia Rodriguez

Despite the hot weather, and mask mandate lift, even the older generation of Texans are making sure to do their part in keeping themselves and others safe by masking-up in public, even when they are not around others.

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A medium shot of Megan, an employee at Bath & Body Works at the San Marcos Outlets, putting away lotion, and organizing racks while masked-up. PC: Mia Rodriguez

While maintaining mask requirements, Bath & Body Workers maintain a system across the store as well, making sure to place markers on the ground so customers can socially distance themselves, as well as having two washing centers set up.

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A wide shot of a local booth employee, Christian, at the San Marcos Premium Outlet making sure he is masked up, as well as letting others who approached his booth know that they need to be masked up as well. PC: Mia Rodriguez

With health being a huge safety hazard when it comes to others refusing to wear a mask, employees and self-employed people with their own businesses constantly have to remind customers/buyers that “no mask = no service.”

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Customers gather to check-out at Bath & Body Works. Workers and even younger customers stay masked up while checking out. PC: Mia Rodriguez

Clear barriers are one way that facilities have incorporated for the health and safety of their employees as well as the customers.

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A tight shot of Leena Garcia, a customer, looking over products at Bath & Body Works while making sure to keep a safe distance from other customers. PC: Mia Rodriguez

While still wanting freedom to go out and purchase products, Texans at the outlets are still making sure to maintain a safe distance from each other, despite how small the facilities can be.

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A medium shot of Leena Garcia, mask on and shopping at H&M. PC: Mia Rodriguez

Being wary when others are getting to close to you has been important for customers and employees everywhere throughout the pandemic. In the picture above, Leena makes sure to be wary as other customers approach the section she is looking in.

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A tight shot of Madison, an employee at Bath & Body Works, watching the front door of the facility, making sure customers come in with a mask at all times. PC: Mia Rodriguez

When it came to finding people who wanted to show their facilities ability to keep safety precautions in place, it was very difficult to find many where they were masked up.

Audio Assignment: The Mask Mandate Lift and How it is Affecting Younger Employees

Working through the global pandemic has been a new and hard experience for many and has students feeling hopeless when it comes to their safety and having to make a living. I sat down with two college-level students, who are currently working in foodservice in the San Marcos, TX, area, and had them explain to me the difficulties that they have been going through while the mask mandate lift has been executed.

One thing that I am proud about when it comes to this assignment is that I improved greatly when it comes to audio editing. Compared to the practice audio assignment, I executed the proper steps in this final audio assignment. One thing I can improve on still is editing audio in general.

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