The Families of Essential Workers: COVID-19 Reflections from a Jamaican living in New York

As the wife of an ICU nurse, I see the other side: The side where the kids wake up at 3 am screaming. The side where my five-year-old tries to hide her father’s keys so he won’t go to work because she doesn’t want him to “get coronavirus.” They have restless nights, and at 3 am today she said “what’s daddy’s favorite cake? I want him to have two slices because he’s working so hard because of this virus.”

Every day when he comes into the house, she runs to the drawer and finds his vitamins. She hands them to him with a cup of water. That’s her contribution to help keep him well. I see the tired face that has worked a full shift—like worked, worked—and has come home but can’t enter the house until he has first gone to his area to shower and put his things away to ensure our safety. I see the silence—a haunting one—and I hear the stories that the news doesn’t report. In fact, COVID-19 patients were in his care long before the news ever started reporting it.

Dr Kerri-Ann Smith and Family
Dr Kerri-Ann Smith and Family

Essential workers’ wives and husbands have to work virtually, too. Their kids have to go to virtual school, too. They need groceries replenished, too. Someone has to do it while they run to save those who are afflicted. It’s not like “normal” times. I think the children will pay for this, too, as they have real fears that they cannot express. As the sister of a serviceman, I understand fully well why frontliners in the military say “please don’t thank me for my service.” You see, they’d rather not go to war—most of them. They’d rather keep us safe in other ways. The same goes for essential workers. They didn’t “sign up” for war. They signed up to care. Under these conditions, they can’t just care, because survival is the name of their game. They’ve faced death but this, this isn’t the same. If it’s a war, then where’s the ammo? The troops are worn. If you really want to thank them for their sacrifice, please stay home.

Today, in the news: New York has more victims than any country! Country! Just. STAY. HOME. Their families thank you. —KMS


  • Kerri-Ann M. Smith

    Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of two beautiful little girls. She is a senior writer for

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