Marcus Hartford’s first symptom was exhaustion. It was April 2021 and the 24-year-old executive chef at Bar 145, a gastropub in Toledo, Ohio, was logging 50–60 hours at the restaurant each week. He initially chalked up his symptoms to these long hours plus the stress of directing a kitchen during a pandemic.
Then, he began to have trouble breathing.
Ultimately, Hartford, who believes he contracted the coronavirus while at work, was hospitalized and later placed on a ventilator. His family and friends were told more than once he was unlikely to survive. He spent more than 100 days on a ventilator and had most of his right lung removed during the seven months he was hospitalized.
Stories similar to Hartford’s have become tragically common among employees at restaurants across the country as, during the war on Covid-19, commercial kitchens have emerged as one of the most dangerous battlegrounds.