Students continue to help others while working at Publix


Photo by Kaysa Flemk-Joli

Tequesta Publix with a nearly empty parking lot on April 10.

Grocery store employees are essential workers in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down so many businesses, and Jupiter High students are doing their part. They continue to work at Publix to help our community get the food and products they need to survive.

Junior Barrett Vargas is a cashier at the Chasewood Plaza Publix in Jupiter but only works on Sundays. She described how the store has implemented new measures to keep everyone safe.

“We are expected to sanitize the carts, always use hand sanitizer and clean the glass screens and registers before and after people use it,” Vargas said.

In addition to the employees, Publix shoppers are also taking extra precautions to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers often wear protective masks and gloves to protect themselves and those around them.

“Most customers wear gloves, and some have masks, and they also keep their distance…some of the other employees wear gloves…I usually put the receipts in the bag now instead of handing it to them,” Vargas said.

Senior Connor Capar works with the customer service staff at the Jupiter Farms Publix, and he acknowledged that Publix is doing all they can to ensure everyone is safe.

“We’ve shortened our hours to allow for additional cleaning and restocking. We’re allowed to wear masks and gloves, and they installed plexiglass to act as a barrier between associates and customers,” Capar said. 

Some employees are offered hazard pay and other incentives to work at Publix, while others are out of work and may have to file for unemployment. 

“For the last couple of weeks, Publix has given every associate a Publix gift card that works the week before the gift card is given. It’s seen as an incentive to come in and provide premiere customer service while also helping associates whose families have been affected by the virus,” Capar said. “Additionally, if an associate becomes infected with COVID-19, they are given sick pay, based on their time with the company.”

Publix, along with most stores that are considered “essential,” are following the safety guidelines urged by the CDC, including standing six feet away from the person in front of you while waiting in line.

“I have seen a handful of customers come in wearing protective gear and they have also been respectful of the six foot rule when waiting in lines,” Capar said.

College student Joseph Devivo just started working as a stocker at the Gardens Square Publix in Palm Beach Gardens and has to manage his time doing college classes online and working several days a week. 

“It’s busy all the time; you have to definitely have time management. You have to know when to wake up and get your work done and then realize when you have to go to work and put time aside for work,” Devivo said. “You just have to be smart and know how to manage your schedule, but professors and teachers are very understanding knowing that we have to help our families.”

With the number of COVID-19 cases rising in Palm Beach County, in addition to the death toll, it’s becoming risky for customers and employees to be in crowded stores. 

“Employees, management and everybody in that store should be taking it a little bit more seriously than they are. I’m also kind of on the fence about working there, but I feel like a lot more could be done…but that goes for anywhere,” Devivo said. 

Protective gear like masks and gloves are hard to come by everywhere, and employees at Publix are no exception. 

“I had a customer ask me where our masks were, and I basically said that it’s hard to find protective wear, but I feel like they should have invested in it for employees at an earlier time,” Devivo said.