Social Distancing: Businesses Rethink Approach

Photo: Classy Camelids
Shannon Joy and Jean-Pierre from Classy Camelids pose for an online photo shoot

Social distancing will be the key to defeating COVID-19, and businesses that traditionally operate in close quarters have been making adjustments. 

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A recent projection from the Oregon Health Authority stated that while the number of Oregonians infected by coronavirus is on the rise, there is strong evidence social distancing techniques put in place by public officials and businesses are having a large impact fending off the disease. 

Their model suggests social-distancing measures are cutting rates of infection by between 50% and 70%.

Well-reported social distancing methods include requiring employees to work from home, restricting the number of people entering supermarkets and introducing curbside delivery.

But plenty of other businesses have had to employ new tactics to keep customers safe and revenue coming in. 

Shannon Joy runs Classy Camelids, a rental service that brings therapy llamas to offices, hospitals and other venues. In the early days of the virus, Joy would go on social-distancing walks with visitors, allowing families to walk alongside llamas without coming into contact with other people. 

She put a stop to the walks when she decided they encouraged people to leave their homes unnecessarily. 

Joy says she has been learning a lot about video-sharing platform TikTok, posting pictures and videos of her animals, and selling homemade accessories, such as crocheted llamas and children’s books. 

“I launched my products on Wednesday [4/1] and there was a big outpouring of support,” says Joy. “Everything you read online now is about coronavirus. I wanted our content to lift people’s spirits and continue fan relationships.”  

The spread of COVID-19 has made her transition her role into more of an online influencer, she says.

“I’ve been working with my mom on some educational videos. We’ve been updating the back end of our website,” she says. “Just trying to stay creative is what’s keeping me sane.” 

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Rochelle Koch co-owns hemp growing facility Whole Circle Farms in Silverton. She frequently sells hemp products at farmers markets. 

While farmers markets are typically close-contact environments, Koch says the markets she attends in Portland and Silverton have hired extra staff to ensure customers stay healthy. 

“We have to have a distancing officer for each booth. We have to wipe down between each sell,” she says. “When you go to the grocery store it seems there’s none of those protections.”

Summit Bank, a community bank with branches in Eugene, Bend and Portland, employs six feet of social distancing between employees at all times. The lobby has been shut down, but clients can schedule in-person meetings to open accounts or visit their safety deposit boxes. Otherwise they can do their banking via drive-thru window. 

“Social distancing is critical to the spread of COVID-19,” says senior vice president Jenny Bennett. “The team has taken multiple steps to practice social distancing and assess daily opportunities to flatten the curve.” 

A floral designer at Eugene-based Rhythm and Blooms, who chose to remain anonamous, says that although the flower shop is closed to the public, and it  no longer delivers to hospitals, sales have been a little above average lately. 

“It’s surprising how busy we’ve been. We’re doing more pick-up orders. We actually have a drive-thru window where people can pick up the flowers. Otherwise we just leave them on the porch. We really have no contact with people,” she says.

“Some people are actually sending flowers to themselves.” 

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