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United States of Work

A senior citizen working through the pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Apr 2, 2020
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Gaile Harrell, a convenience store employee in Ashburn, Virginia is considered an essential worker and therefore, working through the pandemic. Melissa Lyttl
United States of Work

A senior citizen working through the pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Apr 2, 2020
Gaile Harrell, a convenience store employee in Ashburn, Virginia is considered an essential worker and therefore, working through the pandemic. Melissa Lyttl
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Gaile Harrell likes to keep busy. Under normal circumstances, she travels often, volunteers with the AARP, works polls during elections, goes on lots of outings with her local Red Hat Society chapter (a women’s social organization), and works part-time at a convenience store in Ashburn, Virgina. 

These are not normal circumstances though. “Everything has stopped except work,” Harrell told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. 

Harrell is one of the 10 people we’re following in our series re-imagining the American labor force called, “United States of Work.” Around 23% of the U.S. labor force is over the age of 55. Gaile is 70. 

Though Gaile’s age puts her at higher risk of complications from COVID-19, her convenience store job is considered exempt from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s statewide “stay-at-home” order. “When we go to work now, if we get stopped by the police, we have a letter that we show them that says we’re essential,” Harrell said. 

Harrell said she’s taking extra precautions like wearing gloves and washing her hands a lot more than usual, but is “not scared,” of contracting the virus. “Not a lot I can do,” she said. “I just take one day at a time.”

As for how she’ll cope with all her other activities being cancelled for the foreseeable future, Harrell said, “I guess my grand-baby and I are gonna walk the dogs every day.” 

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