COVID-19 has presented some challenges to the Allen County community, but it's also provided us with opportunities.
During these times, we get a better look at ourselves and can fully recognize what we as a community are capable of doing. The current circumstances are ripe for an “all hands on deck” approach from a community that is strong and very capable of putting itself in an even better position than we have seen in the past.
As we work through these unprecedented times, there is a specific role Allen County businesses can play to help set the tone. To be most effective in that task, there are a number of things local businesses should consider.
First, communicate with the medical community and let them know how appreciative you are of their efforts. These folks are on the front lines 24/7 and growing weary. They are strong but need encouragement to keep going.
Let them know how you can assist in providing things such as personal protective equipment. Do you have individuals in your employ with special skills who might be able to assist medical providers? Part-time medical practitioners who are looking for temporary work or seamstresses who can help sew needed personal protective equipment?
Second, make sure first responders know they are appreciated. Help public safety workers better understand what your business may be doing during this time. Are you open? Have you gotten down to less than full staff?
Communicate to your employees the need to adhere to the recommendations federal, state and local governments may issue so enforcing them will be last on the minds of public safety officials.
Third, help local government better understand other resources you might need or be able to provide, such as extra bed space for COVID-19 patients. Is your business capable of making a transition to provide necessary personal protective gear or other needed equipment? What specific monetary needs will your business face in the short term that will allow governments at all levels to work together to assist with solutions?
Fourth, work internally to develop or strengthen your continuity-of-operation plans. Sharpen you personnel policies. Do you have policies that might allow employees to work from home? How will you pay employees if there is a reduction in hours at your business? Reinforce best practices to your employees regarding common practices for avoiding COVID-19. Assist employees with a better understanding of what this community is facing and ask them to look to credible sources of information rather than relying on rampant rumors perpetuated through social media.
Finally, there are businesses that may struggle during these challenging times. You can be assured those businesses and those they employ will come out of this stronger. In the meantime, take the opportunity to reach out to our less fortunate in Allen County. Let them know you are thinking about them, provide some encouragement and let them know that they too will emerge stronger and better prepared to face the future.
Now is not a time for despair. There is reason for optimism. Models are coming out of China and Italy that are allowing for more predictable outcomes. We are now learning about potential treatments for COVID-19 and how to better manage our current challenges. Countries and businesses are coming out of this stronger and better able to cope with the future.
We are facing challenging times, but we are a strong, thoughtful, intelligent and resilient community with the role that business can play.
Collaboratively, we will come out a better Allen County.
Nelson Peters is president of the Allen County Board of Commissioners.