Working Parents: How Children of Essential Workers are Dealing with the Pandemic

Throughout NYC, parents who’re essential workers not only put their family’s health at risk, but their children’s emotional health too. On March 22nd, governor Cuomo chose jobs that he’d consider essential, including doctors, construction workers, delivery drivers, etc.

These essential jobs needed to be filled and workers were required to continue working to sustain the city’s functioning dynamic. As a result, essential worker parents across NYC have had to change their family’s dynamic to reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 due to living with someone with constant outdoor exposure.

Whilst many articles have interviewed essential worker parents of this fear of illness due to exposure, many have yet to understand the emotional effects of this adapted family dynamic on children.

Photo credit to Manuel Darío Fuentes Hernández from Pixabay

Ashley Cortez, for instance, is a 15 year old girl living with her work-at-home mom and 5 year old sister, as well as her dad who is a construction worker. “When you imagine a family in quarantine, you imagine a family together at home, but I only see my dad on weekends,” says Cortez. “I feel like families who get to be together are privileged. They don’t have to worry about being safe unless they go out to buy groceries. Every day my dad comes home, I have to worry about whether he’s infected and whether he’ll get all of us sick too. There’s no way of saying we’ll be fine if we get corona, but, with the research that’s coming out about the effects on kids, I’m worried for my sister.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. [….] many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.”

Though little is known about MIS-C, including it’s cause, many have begun to worry for the safety of children since little research leaves a lot of things up for possibility. “I’ve never lost someone in my immediate family and I wouldn’t like to start now,” Cortez stated.

Similarly, Ryan Edwards is a junior at Edison whose single mother works as a nurse at Queens General Hospital. “When my mom used to come home, she would come up to me, kiss me on the forehead, and say ‘hi sweetie.’ Now she yells at me to get into the furthest corner of the room, which is barely 6 ft away from the door since we live in a small apartment. No matter how many precautions we take, from masks to gloves to disinfecting the whole room, she locks herself in her room and sometimes I hear her cry through the walls.” 

Many parents and children alike have a common fear due to the lack of presence of symptoms, which, according to the CDC’s symptom webpage, “may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.” In other words, someone with exposure, such as an essential worker like Edward’s mom, can unknowingly be a carrier for COVID-19 for up to 2 weeks, meaning that, within that time span, they can infect others with the virus as well.

Photo credit to cromaconceptovisual from Pixabay

“On one hand, I’m upset because I’ve been quarantining since the lockdowns were placed,” said Edwards. “On the other, I can see why she’s so afraid; she’s probably seen thousands die and she doesn’t want me to be next.”

According to the NYC Health, New York City accounts for 17,113 confirmed deaths and 52,790 hospitalizations of the 203,430 confirmed cases here as of June 6th.

“It’s not just about me feeling lonely and isolated, but also about how she’s feeling,” Ryan Edwards adds. “The thing is that I want to make her feel better so that she could at least be happy while home, but I know I can’t do anything about what’s going on. Even though the numbers have dropped, I can’t imagine how people working in hospitals feel after having to have dealt with seeing so many deaths per day.” Edwards refers to a daily count chart reported by NYC Health, demonstrating more than a thousand COVID-19 hospitalizations per day from March 23rd to April 11th, the peak being on April 6th where 1,694 hospitalizations were recorded.

Although there has been a decline of confirmed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to COVID-19, the effects on children, specifically teens, with essential workers as parents can be long lasting.

“I don’t think I’m ever going to forget the fear,” Ashley Cortezbegan. “Even with protection, you still might get sick and staying at home guarantees you full protection, but my family can’t afford that luxury. When someone sneezes due to allergies or even coughs from choking on water or air, I move to the next room.” 


“COVID-19: Data.” COVID-19: Data Summary – NYC Health,

“For Parents: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) Associated with COVID-19.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 May 2020,

“Symptoms of Coronavirus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 May 2020,

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Aylin Johnson

Hi, my name is Aylin Johnson and I’m a senior at Thomas A. Edison CTE High School. The reason I write for the Edison Light is because I’m passionate about spreading truth and I advocate against the censorship of it.