Dear South Portland Business Association Members
by Joseph Krahn
COVID-19 has changed business as we know it. School closing may mean kids are at home needing attention and even schooling. Travel is limited and soon we may even be restricted from physically going to work. Our customers are frightened and maybe we are too. The coronavirus is impacting everyone everywhere in some way.
But humans are social beings. We need each other. Now is the time to check on your neighbors and support business in our footprint. You might be the next to need help.
Take a deep breath. Panic is contagious and rarely helps anyway. But do take precautions—for you and others who you may infect. Remember, since there is so little testing being done, many of us are oblivious to their own infection and role in spreading the virus. Be cool, be responsible. By now you should already know of the safety protocols. If you don’t, here’s a link to the CDC where you can find that information.
We really don’t know how dangerous this virus is due to under testing. Current data suggests the mortality rate for COVID-19 is somewhere between .04 and 3.4 percent. While for most of us, the risk dying from the disease once infected is relatively small, the virus is very easily transmitted and has the potential to overwhelm our health system. Early data from China suggests older people and those with underlying diseases are at greatest risk, but newer data suggests greater risk to the young than we previously thought.
Talk to Customers and Employees
It is crucial to communicate with your staff about contingency plans, good hygiene practices and staying home when sick. You may not be conducting much business if you don’t.
Shaking hands should be avoided. If a customer offers a hand, politely decline and keep your distance. Some may view your reluctance as an overreaction, so communicate warmth while explaining your reluctance in a lighthearted way. For some strange reason, it’s extremely hard to cease touching one’s own face. That is why thorough (20 seconds or more) handwashing is so important.
Office Closings and Travel Bans
Governor Brown issued several executive orders since the start of the outbreak. On Monday, March 23rd she ordered a stay at home order and closing many businesses where people gather. See details here.
As a result, many South Portland businesses have already closed their doors for an indefinite period. Restaurants have limited business to take out orders. Service businesses have canceled partner meetings, choosing to meet virtually instead. Older adults, and those with pre-existing conditions, should not travel by plane, ship or train. Consider travel alternatives not involving large groups of people.
However, other businesses remain open, adjusted schedules as workers rotate from home to the office. If your business remains open but have adjusted operations or schedules, let us know so we can help get the word out for you. Email us here.
It’s time to set up your infrastructure for remote work as more government-imposed restrictions may be coming soon. Be ready to limit client/ customer meetings to phone/video conferencing. Help staff can set up home work systems by investing in collaborative software such as Google’s G Suite and Share File and Ring Central.
Develop a Plan
Have a plan in place should someone in your company develop COVID-19. Keep in mind, working from home could last several weeks. If your employees have children, find a daycare provider who might be able to watch children while employees work. Consider staggered scheduling arrangements to reduce the possibility that all your workers might become sick at the same time.
Help on the way
Federal, state and local governments are honing economic stimulus plans for businesses and individuals. Details are becoming clearer. Here is are some links to find out more about that:
Link 1 Link 2
If you own a business in South Portland, do not know what to do or just want a shoulder to lean on, email me at email@example.com.
President, South Portland Business Association