Businesses, organizations affected by coronavirus

Published 2:14 pm Monday, March 16, 2020

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Many local businesses and organizations have been affected by the coronavirus outbreak, though no cases have been confirmed in the county. There are 33 confirmed cases in North Carolina and no deaths, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Over the weekend, Gov. Roy Cooper ordered public schools to close for at least two weeks. Gray Stone Day School and Carolina Christian School in Locust are also closed.On Monday, he requested a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration that would allow small businesses impacted economically from the pandemic to receive loans.

Pfeiffer University has canceled in-person classes for the week of March 16. Classes will resume starting March 23 in an online format until at least April 3. The library, resident halls, dining rooms and other facilities on campus are still open to students.

Stanly Community College has extended spring break for students, which will start end March 20. Many courses will be delivered in an online format once spring break ends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged public gatherings to be limited to 50 or less people, down from an advisory last week of 100 or more. During a press conference Monday afternoon, President Trump discouraged social gatherings of 10 or more people and recommended people to avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts.

On Monday, Cooper requested a disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration that would allow small businesses impacted economically from the pandemic to receive loans.

Though county employees have been given options to work remotely from home, many of them interact with residents on a day-to-day basis that remote work would be difficult.

“A lot of what we do is not conducive to teleworking,” said County Manager Andy Lucas.

The county is working on contingency telework plans in case the coronavirus outbreak get worse over the coming days and weeks.

What most concerns Lucas is child care — especially if children are out of school for an extended period of time, beyond the two weeks. Prolonged school closures would leave county employees scrambling to find proper care for their children.

While all of the county libraries (Albemarle, Badin, Norwood, Oakboro and Locust) and the Stanly County History Center remain open, Stanly County Public Library Director Melanie Holles said in an email that all programs have been canceled and meeting room activities suspended. The library is working to create online story times for kids as well as other resources for children and families. Event cancellations included a Stanly County Historical Society program on women and the opening program for a baseball display at the museum.

Stanly County Christian Ministry, as of Monday, has closed the dining rooms in its Community Table locations in Albemarle and Norwood and is currently only serving take-out at both locations. SCCM is in need of take-out trays and disposable cups with lids.

SCCM has already seen an uptick in the number of households getting food at the food pantry. SCCM, which averages roughly 40 households per day that frequent the pantry, already saw 30 households Monday morning, according to executive director Heather Kilde.

“Our assumption is that with schools closing and grocery stores not having some foods, we’ve seen an uptick,” said development director Jenny Clore.

SCCM’s clothing closet, located along East Main Street in Albemarle, also closed Monday. Though SCCM asks people to limit the amount of clothes they donate, they still need donations.

“We will need our community support more now than ever in order for us to continue serving our neighbors in Stanly,” Clore said.

Food Lion President Meg Ham sent an email last week to customers with MVP Savings Digital Accounts detailing the actions the company has taken in light of the virus.

“While we pride ourselves in having clean stores, we have increased the frequency of our cleaning procedures and added even more rigorous practices,” Ham wrote. “Our associates are regularly disinfecting high-touch areas in our stores. We are working to ensure sanitizing wipes are available in stores and encourage you to use them as a precaution.”

While certain high-demand items, such as household cleaning products, may temporarily be out of stock, she said Food Lion stores “are working as fast as possible to restock our shelves with these items.”

Chick-fil-A locations around the country are temporarily closing their dining room seating to help limit person-to-person contact, according to information posted on the company’s website. The location in Albemarle has a drive-through option and people can order online and wait outside for an employee to deliver them their meal.

The Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation has been busy postponing and rescheduling events due to restrictions, including the Outdoorsman’s Bonanza, which has been moved from March 28 to May 2.

Though many downtown Albemarle businesses have yet to be affected, some are taking precautions, said ADDC director and Main Street manager Joy Almond. She said Second Street Sundries has temporarily suspended its dine-in option, serving customers instead by curbside pickup or delivery.

“The ADDC is monitoring Facebook for updates from downtown businesses and sharing on our Facebook page,” Almond said. “It is certainly not lost on me that small businesses everywhere will be impacted. I hope that everyone will continue to support these businesses while using common sense practices.”

Stanley Engineered Fastening in Stanfield has created a contingency plan in preparation for the coronavirus, including making sure it has enough personal protective equipment (masks, gloves and hand sanitizer) available for employees, said Human Resources and Environmental Health and Safety Manager Lindsey Toole.

Stanley is a global company with 37 plants around the world, including 15 in North America and one of 20 brands that make up Stanley Black & Decker. Several employees within Stanley Black & Decker have been infected with the virus, including one in Louisiana and several in Europe and China.

“It’s affecting our company throughout the world,” Toole said.

The Stanfield location has created a risk assessment form for employees who recently traveled abroad to fill out and they are limiting visitors to only those with essential business needs. Visitors have to review a health form to make sure they are not exhibiting any symptoms before they enter the premises.

The company also has a temporary quarantine room in the event an employee happens to present symptoms associated with the virus (shortness of breath, respiratory problems).

Employees at Vac & Dash have been busy cleaning and disinfecting items several times a day and owner Peter Asciutto said he’s been shifting staff times to make sure not as many people are working together at one time.

Asciutto said the store has placed a cart at the front where people may drop off UPS-labeled packages to maintain proper social distancing.

Until further notice, Vac & Dash’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Contact reporter Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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