WHEATLAND – Ever since Coronavirus, or COVID-19 has hit, things have changed globally. It hit like a tsunami and the waves are reaching the shores of every continent. The difference is that a storm hits and clean-up usually takes places soon after.
With a virus that is showing little signs of decline and promises no end-date, the adjustment of schedules and lifestyles is ongoing. Locally, although the virus has not been as predominant, precautions have been put in place by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Boundaries are now being set by the government.
The question is not when we can get back to normal, but how do we survive the pandemic and sudden changes that have to be made in a society that generally does not like change, nor does it adapt well to it.
“We’ve been busy,” said Ty Stockton from the State of Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, (DWS) “and trying to keep up with the influx of people who are being laid-off and unemployed. But, we are still open.”
Some of the people in the DWS have been called to new areas such as manning phones and website questions. With the virus causing more and more quarantines, businesses are moving into more areas of telecommunications.
Local companies have also been turning their employees into OCD cleaning fanatics making sure keyboards and door handles, bathrooms and work surfaces are cleaned after each visitation from an outside source exits the building.
This is especially true in an area such as Workforce Services where people are scheduled in to fill out applications for unemployment benefits and job searches. Private keyboards are meticulously cleaned, Stockton said.
“Due to more people being laid-off due to the quarantine restrictions,” Stockton said, “we are experiencing a heavy call volume and the wait time has generally been very long. We are encouraging people to go online and visit our centers there for faster service.”
The influx in people without jobs are not, however without options.
“People can visit us online at www.wyui.wyo.gov to file for unemployment.” Stockton said. “If they qualify, the turnaround time for the first paycheck can be as quick as two weeks, and in some cases, faster than that. If they need actual hands-on help, we are not closing our offices, but are scheduling people and spacing the interviews out so that there are not a lot of people in the building at one time.”
There are 20 Workforce Services locations around the State. You can not receive help unless you file.
“Even with unemployment help,” Stockton said, “they will not receive a full paycheck, but will receive enough to help them out in this crisis.”
Another option open to those displaced workers is the possibility of another job.
“Even though the Federal Government on down says that places are to shut down and the workforce is diminished,” he said, “This can actually open up other areas where businesses are looking for people to work in situations where they are isolated and away from other people. The main thing is there is work available right now.”
The DWS is trying to get people in and out as quickly as possible according to Stockton so that there will not be huge crowds at the Workforce Services centers and also so they can get their financial help in a quicker time.
All businesses have been affected by the Coronavirus in some way, shape or form. Rick Roddam from Fat Boys Tires said that business has slowed down, but the decline hasn’t affected their company like many other industries. Even in the smaller declines, changes are being made.
“Along with public safety concerns, we have also installed these new temporary store hours to help protect our employees from financial uncertainty.” Roddam said. “Our family has been in business for over 50 years and, during that time, no employee has ever missed a paycheck. Currently, 48 families count on Fat Boys for their livelihood and we will continue to do everything in our power to assure their jobs are secure. We will also be offering financial planning support services to our staff to promote responsible money management and to help prepare them for economic obstacles and uncertainty in the future.”
In a business that other businesses count on, Fat Boys has chosen to remain open to help serve the trucking industry, local farmers, ranchers and families who need auto repairs.
The trucking industry has perhaps been one of the hardest hit industries with the Coronavirus piggybacking on the already troubled industry. Local family-owned trucking company, Locke Trucking, Inc. which works to deliver in 48 states has seen several challenges from the spread of the virus.
“In the last year we’ve seen more regulation with electronic logging devices,” said Locke Trucking office manager Brian Kelly. “That has really put a pinch on the market. Now along with the virus there’s just a lot of uncertainty, and I think that goes with every industry.”
The problem with trucking is not laying off employees, but just the opposite, trying to hire employees in an industry that sees a lot of employee turnover.
“Our drivers are out on the road and they are faced with limited access to services that they need,” said Kelly, “and the truck stops and the rest areas that they depend on find their meals and to use restrooms are starting to close and limit access that our drivers have.”
One story reported from a trucking company in another state said that a trucker could not find an open rest stop and tried a fast food venue. Since an 18-wheeler can not put through the drive-through and the lobby had been closed, he parked his truck and stood in line amidst the line of cars. When he got to the window, they would not serve him because he was not in a vehicle. When the trucker explained his plight, the fast-food worker was unsympathetic to his cause and turned him away.
Banks are another local service that has been altered as most banking now has to be done through the drive-throughs which are still open, but at limited hours, and if you want to conduct business such as opening a new account, you would have to call to talk to a new account specialist. As of March 19, Governor Mark Gordon has called for a close of all banks to be closed with the exception of the drive-throughs.
Most local retailers are feeling the sting of the virus even though it hasn’t actually affected any physical bodies in Platte County.
Drube Hardware Store in Wheatland has pressed on in the midst of the precautions, and has been affected in the supplies that they are actually allowed to receive.
“We are seeing shortages on the things that everybody is seeing shortages on,” said Drube Hardware employee Leah Maguire. “We are being rationed from our supplier on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. I mean, we have small amounts coming in every week, but we’re trying to make sure that the people that need it most get it first.”
Drube Hardware along with other retailers in the area say they are doing their best to keep their store shelves stocked, but unlike a storm where people ravish and are done, this pandemic is causing the storm to be ongoing.
“As of right now, it’s just kind of a wait and see,” Maguire said, “We have things on order that may or may not come, but we know we will get at least a little bit of something on our regular Tuesday truck, but we are going to stay open and keep trying for as long as we can. And until they tell us we can’t.”
With some states now invoking Marshall Law and other states following suit, there could be a full quarantine right here in Platte County at some time. People who are making plans for that to happen will be ready in case it does. Those who still buy into the idea that it is not serious, may have to be scrambling without a back-up plan.
“If that happened here, we would go home and spend time with our family,” Maguire said. “That’s what I would do I guess, but I can’t speak for everybody.”
MaGuire, who lives on a large ranch would not be lacking in daily activities, and may in fact get to some of those little projects that have been put on a back burner. For the rest of the workforce, the options are out there, but we have been reminded that in the midst of it all, clear heads will prevail and panic is the enemy of our souls.