Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order that closed restaurants, bars, movie theatres, and gyms to reduce the opportunity for person-to-person transmission of COVID-19. Other essential businesses are permitted to remain open, including grocery stores, pharmacies and banks.
The rush of shoppers who filled stores last week and over the weekend seems to be subsiding, possibly because shelves are growing empty. At one of the major grocery stores, there was a run on beef that had cleared the case Saturday. There were few paper products on the shelf at Chestertown’s Dollar General on Monday. The complaint is similar about grocery retailers in the region.
The Peoples Bank announced that it has closed lobbies to the public effective March 17, encouraging customers to shift to drive-up or online banking.
“The Peoples Bank has been a core financial institution on the Eastern Shore since 1910,” Peoples Bank president Ralph Dowling commented. “The Bank has been there for our customers as they have witnessed war, social upheaval, and now, a national health emergency.’
“Our pandemic plan was designed with the health of our community, as well as the personal safety and asset protection of our clients, in mind,” Dowling continued. “We feel that closing our lobbies to the public is essential during this national health emergency in order to minimize the risk of exposure to our clients and our staff.”
“We have had a pandemic plan for years,” explained Chesapeake Bank president Glen Wilson. “It’s a plan that is layered in stages as events develop.”
When the Kent Pilot spoke to him Monday, Wilson had just returned by air from his son’s wedding in Atlanta, where he was already sensing the economic shutdown as two weddings in the same hotel were canceled.
Chesapeake Bank’s action plan includes steps such as hand sanitizer in the lobby and protective masks and clothes for staff.
“We are encouraging social distancing,” he said. “If you are going to meet, use the conference room or more phone meetings.”
“We have relaxed our sick leave policy,” Wilson said, stressing the bank’s concern to protect staff and to allow employees who themselves or whose family are unwell to stay home.
At Ash+Ember in Centreville, one of the district’s medical cannabis dispensaries, management is taking the COVID-19 issue seriously.
“As a business exempted from the closing, we have to take special care to keep our staff healthy and our doors open,” remarked Ashley Colen, CEO of Chestertown-based Hippocratic Growth, LLC, Ash+Ember’s owner. Colen explained the changes the firm was instituting that include having staff submit to a pre-shift temperature check to rule out a fever.
“As part of our licensing planning, we were required to develop plans for emergencies, including operational threats like a pandemic and I am glad we had the foresight,” Colen continued. “We have thousands of patients who need access to their medicine and you have to plan for interruptions.”
The company has instituted operational changes that include closing the store’s retail area from certified patients and shifting to online and phone ordering and in-store and curbside pickups and deliveries.
“Patients can order online or over the phone and we will bring the order to the car,” Colen explained. “Also, we have cut delivery fees in half to encourage people to stay home.”
“If patients want to schedule an enrollment consultation, call us and we will accommodate,” Colen continued. “The most important outcome is that people stay home as this virus works through our community.”
Disclosure: Kent Pilot publisher Stephen Meehan is a principal of Hippocratic Growth, Inc. Ashley Colen is a director of Kent Pilot, Inc.