Responding to COVID-19: How The Pandemic Has Changed Us

The month of April took our country to places none of us could have anticipated. Collectively, we’ve witnessed trials we might have dismissed at one time with “that could never happen”—yet these things have happened, and we continue on, knowing well that more unknowns lie ahead of us. Living through the evolution of COVID-19 has brought a change to the rhythm of daily life. Where we used to commute, we now set up office in our spare rooms or at the kitchen table. Where we used to eat out with friends every Friday night, we now stay home and cook from the pantry and watch movies. Where we used to say we were invincible, we now know we are not.

One question that becomes more and more pressing as this global situation unfolds is just how current events will impact the future. What will our new normal be in six months, or one year from now? Will the effects of social distancing become permanently imprinted on society, such that we experience a sustained sense of lost connection from those around us? Will once bustling office spaces remain quiet as some choose to continue working from home? Will technology increasingly replace our tangible experience with the world?

Our staff here at Strictly Business feels the weight of these questions and the importance of the answers we will give to them in the coming days. As daunting as the future may seem at times, we also see that many good things have come from the changes we’ve had to make in recent weeks. In suffering a loss of certain things we once enjoyed, we’ve also been blessed with other things that once seemed to elude us.

We now find ourselves spending more time with family, making a priority of health and wellness, taking thoughtful spiritual inventory of our lives, living more frugally, and overall benefitting from the effects of a simpler lifestyle. We’ve read more books, said more sincere prayers, spent more time exercising at home, picked up hobbies we’d nearly forgotten and dusted off the old guitar in the corner. In short, we’ve found the priceless gifts of human connection, creativity, and ingenuity that come from living through hard times. This experience has begun to clear the fog of our previously overly-busy lives and given us insight into some of the ways we might benefit moving forward. Our hope is that we can remember what we’re learning and use this experience as a catalyst for positive change and growth. In that spirit of hope, we’d like to share a snapshot of the changes we’re already witnessing in our community as well as some suggestions for continued improvement for the future.

Services Adapted to Fit the Times

At the business level, we have witnessed massive efforts to reconsider, reorganize, and restructure the way we do business and how we offer services to our customers and clients in order to continue helping people during challenging and unusual circumstances. These changes have made us uncomfortable at times—change is never easy—while also helping us stay connected with others, as the discomfort of change is one thing we all have in common right now. We’ve been impressed by the efforts of businesses to make sacrifices of time, funds, and other resources in order to continue providing important services and products to the public. Our hearts go out to the staff and personnel at hospitals, clinics, assisted living communities, and other businesses providing life-giving services such as home health care as well as those who continue to provide us with food, stock and run our grocery markets, pick up our trash for us, deliver our mail, protect our communities, and provide a host of other vital services, even at the risk of their own health.

We’ve been touched to hear stories of healthcare and assisted living communities that have been forced to close their doors to visitors as a safety measure. The staff at these communities have since doubled their efforts to provide cheer, comfort, and entertainment to their residents, even as they work overtime to do whatever is necessary to keep these residents safe. What further impresses us is how the public has also responded to these situations. Our social media feeds have been graced by stories of healthcare workers who have faced a shortage of supplies such as N95 masks who have then had to improvise and use handmade materials to get by. Kind people have stepped up in generous ways, as exampled in the actions of the staff at Bridge to Better Living, who have lent a hand during this difficult time by making face masks, helping deliver Tabitha Meals on Wheels to seniors in the community, donating blood, and contacting seniors who are isolated.

We are encouraged to see friends and families socializing with their senior loved ones in unique ways. Hillcrest Health Services started a Pen Pal Program and invited the public to email encouraging letters, artwork, photos, stories, etc. to Recreation teams at the Hillcrest communities in Douglas, Sarpy, and Lancaster counties share the letters with residents and assist them in responding to their new pen pals.

“The idea came about when family members at Hillcrest Millard, our post-acute rehab and long-term care community in Omaha, began taping signs to their loved ones’ windows and ‘visiting’ on the phone with their loved ones from outside,” explained Liz Stratman, Director of Communications for Hillcrest Health Services. “Since launching the program on March 18, we’ve received more than 400 emails containing everything from encouraging notes to YouTube videos individuals have recorded for residents to beautiful drawings and other artwork.”

Care Consultants for the Aging shared five tips on their Facebook page on how to help a lonely elderly loved one, encouraging people to reach out to seniors even as we’re all keeping our distance to stay safe:

  1. Show that you are available
  2. Ask how they feel
  3. Be dependable
  4. Help them discover new ways to stay in touch
  5. Ask other people for help

Many healthcare providers found in recent weeks that new methods are needed to reach patients in order to limit exposure, and telehealth has quickly become a household word. Clearwater Counseling acted proactively to offer virtual visits so they can continue helping their patients, especially during a time when so many are experiencing increased stress and mental health services are so needed.

9Round Fitness looked to the needs of people confined to home by taking their exercise services online through livestreamed workouts so their loyal regulars could continue on with their healthy fitness habits and maintain a sense of balance and normal life.

Center Sphere took the opportunity to continue serving its members in new ways, in spite of social distancing. Their Zoom meetup, “Master the Virtual Experience,” has allowed professionals to continue connecting and networking with others so they don’t feel cut off as they do their part to responsibly keep distance from others while still supporting each others’ businesses.

Sandhills Global teamed up with LIBA and the Nebraska Retail Federation to develop an online platform for local business owners to sell gift cards or gift certificates to help infuse cash into their businesses through the website The website acts as a streamlined, centralized location that makes it simple for people to offer support to local businesses.

Cornhusker Bank helped fund an emergency effort to assist a stranded youth group on a mission trip to Honduras in returning safely back home to the United States; the youth group arrived on U.S. soil only 48 hours before the Honduran government grounded all flights and sealed off the country.

Gestures of Kindness and Support

There were others in addition to Cornhusker Bank who touched us with their acts of support and kindness. Local internet providers blew us away with their generosity in offering a variety of free services to support local businesses and families. Cox Communications announced that it would offer a low-income internet tier with no annual contract and relaxing data usage overage charges for all tiers. The offer includes a $19.99 new Starter plan for internet customers with a temporary boost up to 50 Mbps download speeds, and no annual contract or qualifications to help low income and those impacted from COVID-19 challenges, such as seniors and college students. Cox also eliminated data usage overages to meet the higher bandwidth demands, and customers with a 500 GB or Unlimited data usage add-on plan have received credits.

We also heard story after story of construction companies donating N95 masks to support healthcare workers in their shortage of supplies. McGill Restoration led the way in collecting money to purchase KN95 respirators to provide to medical facilities across the nation, with a goal of donating one million masks.

Centris Federal Credit Union really strengthened our faith in humanity with their donation of two giant containers of shelf-stable foods to Together Omaha. Lincoln Federal Savings Bank sent an email to their families and employees calling for donations for local food pantries and received nearly $500 in donations in response to a single email. They then encouraged the community to find other ways to support community members in need.

Resources and Education for Uncharted Waters

Berry Law offered a resource for working remotely through an educational video in which they discussed the importance of schedule and routine in staying productive, along with some suggestions for a possible routine outline. For a nation suddenly overturned by the closing of offices and a flood of people working from home, the discussion of how to create and stick to a strong routine is timely and relevant. Scantron Technology Solutions has offered an ongoing stream of helpful tips, useful articles, and important insights for people transitioning from an in-office environment to an at-home setting for the first time.

UNICO Group also offered education pertinent to the COVID-19 crisis by organizing a webinar hosted by ThinkHR addressing the most common HR questions and concerns surrounding COVID-19. To further serve the community, UNICO hosted an additional webinar on “Compensability of the Coronavirus and Related Employment Considerations.” These resources provided a steadying stream of clarity and sound information during a time when many people were overwhelmed with fearful and less-than-helpful messages.

ActionCOACH offered several online opportunities to assist business owners working through the crisis, including a 10-part video series titled “Business Survival Kit” and a free webinar titled “Plan, Don’t Panic” that offered a 5-point plan to give business owners some stability in formulating a new game plan.

North Risk Partners shared a resource that addresses a variety of needs and issues surrounding COVID-19. The COVID-19 Resource Center, powered by Zywave, contains resources such as compliance guides and employee communication templates developed by HR and legal experts, continually updated as the COVID-19 situation changes. North Risk Partners also has and will continue to offer client webinars on the updates during this time. These webinars have included topics such as “Claim Your COVID-19 Financial Relief,” “COVID-19 Law Exemptions & More,” and “COVID-19 Employer Q&As.”

An Improved Approach to Health and Life

As we press on toward what we hope is the closing of a difficult period in history, it would benefit us to make a record of where we’ve been and what we’ve learned from all of this. We hope to soon see people returning to normal life—embracing friends and holding social gatherings, taking vacations, enjoying dinner at favorite restaurants, and shopping at favorite stores. While we long for this return of life as we knew it, we also hope we won’t discard all of the changes we’ve made in recent weeks.

We aren’t finished with this crisis just yet, and care is still needed in our approach to health and life. Will we ever take for granted again the ability to breathe clean, virus-free air? We hope not. Even as the virus continues to slow in the community, there are things we can do to improve the quality of our air today. BELFOR Property Restoration recently shared information on the surface decontamination services they offer. Using wiping methods and small, portable sprayers filled with a hospital-grade solution that kills 99.99% of pathogens, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and leaving no harmful residue, BELFOR’s services can return your office or home to a virus-free state.

Will we ever forget the panic that ensued in grocery stores as people cleared out stocks of toilet paper and bottled water? Again, we hope not. We hope that we can all learn from these experiences and make wise choices during crisis-free times so we don’t panic when troubles do come. Stock your pantries and your supplies little by little, all along the way, so you are always prepared. Opt for services that provide you a consistent supply of clean, good-tasting water through businesses such as Aqua Systems, rather than stocking up on bottled water and adding to landfills—and leave the bottled water for people who really need it.

Healthy practices and stress management should become a part of our everyday routines, if they aren’t already.

Living through the COVID-19 crisis has affected all of us in difficult ways. Even so, the difficulties have opened doors for us to appreciate the good things we still have and to make improved choices for tomorrow so we live better lives in the future. Let’s not forget the lessons we’ve learned!