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Essential Workers At Local Market In South Shore Keep Stepping Up Amid COVID-19 Surge

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Essential workers have helped us get through wave after wave of the pandemic, and now, they're also being impacted by the Omicron surge.

Sources within the Chicago Fire Department told us they have as many as 300 members on the sick roll call from the virus right now. Thankfully, they tell us the sick calls are not impacting services.

But what about other essential services? On Tuesday, CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot visited Local Market Foods, in the Jeffery Plaza shopping center in South Shore, with a look at how workers there have been coping.

A total of 120 employees work at Local Market, and 80 percent of them live right in South Shore. Throughout the pandemic, they have continued to serve the community they call home.

"This store here is more like a family, to be honest with you," said general manager Eddie Roque.

Roque has been the general manager at Local Market since it opened in the South Shore community on Dec. 11, 2019.

"A lot of the people that have been with us since the beginning are still here," he said.

The month after Local Market opened, the first COVID-19 cases started to be reported in the United States. Roque says he was among them.

"Unfortunately, I was part of the first wave last year that got sick," Roque said. "It took us out for the 10 days. We did the proper quarantine and then we came back to work."

A year later, the essential workers at this grocery store are still doing their part as the pandemic continues.

"We have had a number of employees that willing to work extra hours and put in overtime to cover us when we're short staffed," Roque said. "When someone is sick, we got other people that will step up and cover them."

General manager Marvin Brown was among a few employees who tested positive for COVID-19 three weeks ago. After quarantine and negative tests, he's right back at work.

"I had to come back. When you love what you do, you don't let nothing stop you, and I was determined to come back," Brown said. "I was determined to get better, and get well and I fought through it."

What was one of Brown's major motivations for getting better?

"I missed the people. I missed serving the people," he said. "I missed the community.:

With the community in mind, as each shopper enters the store, there are gloves, masks, and sanitizer for anyone who needs them.

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