Amari Hopkins is a pharmacy technician in Decatur, Illinois. This is her story.

By Amari Hopkins, as told to Sam Reed
Mar 20, 2020 @ 2:00 pm
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The coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of American workers — especially those in "essential jobs," who continue to go to work in the midst of the outbreak, including nurses, pharmacy technicians, flight attendants, grocery store employees, and caregivers. InStyle spoke to women in these fields about what their day-to-day life looks like right now, their concerns for themselves and their families, as well as how those of us staying home can help. 

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Amari Hopkins, a pharmacy technician in Decatur, Illinois

Hopkins, 26, works in Decatur, Illi., where most non-essential businesses, as well as schools, have been closed. She is a mother of four and works at a pharmacy inside a local grocery store.

We fill about 300 scripts on a regular day. It’s always kind of hectic; you can expect that. These past few days — I’d say since Monday of last week [Mar. 9] — it has been so crazy. There’s double [the number of prescriptions] — we fill about 600 prescriptions now daily. We have way more customers, and way more people coming in. We have like a “will call” wall with the filled prescriptions, and it’s usually pretty full, but now it’s empty because everyone’s coming to get their prescriptions. We have a drive-thru also, so we have people at the drive-thru, people at the walk-up, and there are only four techs and a pharmacist. There's never more than four techs working, only sometimes when we’re behind. Yesterday, I was off and I came in just to help. Our pharmacist texted me like, “can you please come in?” I didn't mind. I know how hectic it’s been.

There’s a bunch of patients that understand what we’re going through. But then there’s a handful of them — a lot of them, actually — who don’t. And they’re like, “You know, my doctor called this in last night.” And I tell them, “I understand, but yesterday we were three days behind.” I asked them to please bear with me. No one is standing around, everyone is running trying to get this and that, it’s crazy.

In a newspaper here, they suggested that patients go get a three-month supply of their medication in case of a complete lockdown. I know they’ve locked down the restaurants and bars here, you really can’t go anywhere besides the grocery store and the hospital. Now everyone is requesting three-month supplies of their medication, and insurances aren’t paying for it because a lot [of the patients] just received their medication like two days ago, or three weeks ago, and it’s too soon to get a three-month supply, so now we have people stressing about that.

As far as gloves and masks, it’s optional. But we do sanitize, we do that every other customer just about, especially on the pin pad that they have to sign – they use the same stylus, so we have to constantly clean. We also have sanitizer out there, and most people have been pretty good sanitizing before and after using [the pin pad]. I’ve had a few people sanitize money and give it to me.

We were told to have patients put the money on the counter so they can slide it over to avoid hand-on-hand contact. We’re staying 6-feet away from patients with symptoms, and then 3-feet away from everyone else.

I am worried about my own health, but I’m more worried about everybody else. We have a lot of elderly patients, and I’ve heard that they are more prone to [COVID-19], so I fear for them. If anything was to happen to me, I feel like I’m healthy enough to fight it off.

When I get home, I go straight to the bathroom and wash my hands. Even at work, they say, “try not to touch your face,” and since they told us not to, I've been doing it. I don’t usually touch my face but … When I get home I try and get out of my clothes and go straight to the bathroom. I have four little daughters, and I don’t want them touching me or anything while I still have my work clothes on.

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I do have anxiety, I was on medication for it, but I recently stopped taking it because I wanted to get myself off of it. But that was not a great thing to do, because now I actually need it. At work, during those stressful situations, the best thing for me to do is just take deep breaths. I have one coworker — I think it was two days ago — she broke down crying, she was just so frustrated. I told her to go sit in the counsel room and take a few deep breaths and just collect [herself], because, like I said, a lot of patients understand but a lot of them don’t, and this was one that didn’t. So we have to come up with strategies to deal with it and keep calm.

[I want people to] understand that we are really trying our best, so bear with us. Be patient with us, that will help a lot. That’s really the main problem. As long as we can get the scripts in process without having people yelling at us, it’d make it a lot less stressful.

Follow our series on essential women in the fight against COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic is unfolding in real time, and guidelines change by the minute. We promise to give you the latest information at time of publishing, but please refer to the CDC and WHO for updates.

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