Randolph residents, businesses trying to adjust life with COVID-19 virus

RANDOLPH — Life as we know it has drastically changed due to the COVID-19 virus.

While it has changed for most of us, the situation has required extra measures and planning from everyone to school officials and teachers to community retailers.

School has been shut down for now. Many area school districts have already made the decision to cancel in-school classes through the rest of the school year.

Churches have had to cancel church services, as all gatherings — including funerals — are limited to 10 people or fewer.

The Senior Center is serving take-out meals only, as no one from the public is now allowed inside the facility. Colonial Manor has also banned visitors from its facility to lessen the chances of its residents contracting the disease.

The local hardware stores and the grocery store are considered essential services by the state.

Kim Wattier of Wattier’s True Value, Randolph, and Bill Fye of Jim’s Food Center took time out from their duties to talk about what’s happening within their stores due to the outbreak.

Both retailers experienced new customers stopping in from outside of town during the outbreak.

“We’ve had people from area towns in and I talked to a lady going from Iowa to Colorado. She was sleeping in her car,’’ Wattier said.

Fye said he has also had people from out of town in the store.

“Some stores have been out of items. I had one person come in and say this was the third store they had been to looking for bread. I have had people call for items that they are checking on whether we have them for Norfolk people,’’ he said. “By the end of that day, we had no bread.”

Fye said business has been very brisk.

“There were three days that we did two and a half to three times the normal amount of business. I believe this is a trend for all small towns,” he said. “People are not going to work. Small communities have people that work out of town. They are staying close to home. During this time, people aren’t going to the city. There is the belief that they have more of the outbreak there. If people go to the city, they might bring the virus back. The idea is to keep people home to cut down on the spread of the virus.

We keep getting product. The warehouses are starting to get caught up and we are able to get more product. They are following standard procedures and taking temperatures when people come to work. They have had no sickness at the warehouse. With the increase in business, they have been under a tremendous amount of stress. With everything shut down and the closing of restaurants, we have seen a 30 percent increase in grocery business.’’

Fye said he and his wife, Jamie Fye, found out about the outbreak from people telling about it in the store. Then they read about and turned on the news to find out more.

The grocery store has not had anyone decide not to come to work, according to Fye.

“We try to do the best we can,’’ he said. “We told our employees that if anyone didn’t feel safe or had health concerns they didn’t need to come into work. We have been practicing social distancing.’’

‘”I don’t think the world will ever go back to normal, my daughter told me. I said I think we’ll find better ways to do things,’’ Fye said. “If this does happen again, we’ll be more prepared. We need to be positive and have good courage. The impact of this calls for everyone to work together. It takes a challenge like this to bring us together. We need to find the strength we need to keep going. When the community bonds together it will be easier to handle it. This has given me a chance to get to know more people. There have been a lot of people in the store that I don’t see often. Many people are home from work and can come in to the store.’’

One thing Wattier said she’s noticed is an increase in paint sales and items for home repairs.

“People are at home and want something to do so they are finishing many projects that they have wanted to do,’’ she said. “I do worry about Scott and Travis Gerdes out on calls for service. The virus is invisible and we don’t know where it is. ‘’

One positive aspect of the virus outbreak has been that all of Fye’s children are home. His son and his wife returned from the Philippines.

“On their way home, the outbreak was just beginning,’’ Fye said. “They wore masks. My two college daughters have had classroom courses canceled and they are completing their studies online. My 16-year-old daughter has had local school closed and started an online format last Thursday.’’

Fye explained when his family becomes nervous about the virus he has told them to look at the facts and not spend time living in fear.

“God will take care of us,’’ he said. “I am just excited to have everyone home. We are going to play board games and cards.”

According to Fye, this time has become a period when everyone has to slow down.

“Society has everyone running here and there. I know myself I go to community events and school activities. We also go to events for my daughter as a college runner,’’ he said. “For some people this period is very hard. My daughter at college in Lincoln was used to being active. Now she has had to come home every night and get online to finish homework.’’

Wattier said her family hasn’t really been affected greatly other than her son, Preston Wattier, being home from school. He is doing his studies online.

“I stocked up on food,’’ Wattier said. “I wanted to have enough of the essential foods.’’

“Perishable items are what people want more of,’’ Fye said. “They are doing more baking and more food production at home. Ground beef has been a big item because it goes in a lot of recipes. I am trying to keep stocked with milk, eggs and bread as much as we can. I’ve been ordering as much fresh produce as possible. People are eating more healthy. People aren’t able to eat out. The first couple of days Lysol disinfectant was in big demand. Supplies are going to healthcare facilities first. It will take a while for producers to catch up.”

Fye said he has received communications from the warehouse and the health department concerning the virus. Wattier said she received a letter from True Value about the outbreak.

The letter gave directions about a “shelter-in-place’’ order that employers may need to give their employees who are working in essential services like hardware stores and grocery stores.

The letter states: “As the situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, ‘shelter in place’ orders are happening across the country at the state level. Under a shelter-in-place order, residents must remain home and only venture out for necessities.

“Those working in ‘essential’ professions are exempt from this mandate and allowed to travel to and from their place of employment.

“Those working in ‘essential’ professions are exempt from this mandate and allowed to travel to and from their place of employment. As these new orders come down from different states, hardware and distribution have been deemed essential in every executive order and allowed to remain open.

“We want to assure you that if a shelter in place order happens in your state there is no reason to believe that you will have to close. However, we will inform you as additional states announce a shelter in place order and share the details with you.

“Additionally, all True Value Distribution Centers remain open and operating at full capacity at this time....We have created numerous materials to help you communicate changes in your business operation and special services to your customers during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We have also provided a Safe Passage letter template that you can customize and give to your employees should they get questioned by any local authority while traveling to and from work. Thank you for continuing to serve your communities during this ever-evolving situation.”

Wattier said she did have the N-95 masks in stock, however, she made sure they went to health care facilities.

Lysol and toilet paper have been some items that have been popular, according to Wattier.

“Any of the cleaners that have 99.9 percent ability to kill germs are good,’’ she said. “We have also started cleaning door handles more and anything that is touched like carts. We have a pen that we clean every time after someone uses it.’’

Two weeks ago, Wattier said there were individuals who came in and wiped them out of hand sanitizer. People were selling it on the Internet. “I talked to my store managers and we decided to limit hand sanitizers except to health organizations,’’ she said.

Wattier said she didn’t think the virus situation would reach this area. She said she feels the danger is higher with people traveling for their jobs.

“We are trying to get more masks and some of the cleaning items that we are out of, but the warehouses are out. We’re going to get some as soon as we can. We do still have some essential cleaning items,’’ she said. “I think it will be at least three months before we are past this. People are going to want to get outside and work in their gardens soon.’’

“We haven’t started curbside service or delivery,’’ Wattier said. “We all care about each other. We don’t want to lose anyone. We have to take care of each other.’’

Wattier said she feels the outbreak most affects kids and older people.

“They shouldn’t be out, but one person at home gets pretty lonely,’’ she said. “If anyone knows of older people at home alone, they need to be making phone calls to them as we don’t want them to get depressed. I worry about the older generation. They are the best generation. We don’t want to lose them. Kids also need to be home and shouldn’t be out with friends.’’

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