Coronavirus scare affects local commerce

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Tyson Foods has augmented their employee benefits during the coronavirus pandemic.
T-G Photo by Terence Corrigan

From chicken to ink pens, Shelbyville industries continue to move production, despite the coronavirus all around the city. Some smaller businesses, however, have been forced to temporarily close.

City business

Shelbyville City Manager Shanna Boyette said Monday that local dine-in restaurant services were officially closed at 12:01 a.m. Monday per Gov. Bill Lee’s Executive Order 17.

As of Wednesday, Shelbyville remained free from any reported coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The City of Shelbyville posted the governor’s entire executive order to its website and social media accounts upon receipt of the order — one which Boyette said is in an effort to communicate to all dine-in establishments and citizens of the governor’s recent action.

“In addition, local law enforcement is working with the Bedford County Health Department to ensure that all dine-in establishments have been notified and are in compliance with the governor’s order,” Boyette said.

Many local restaurants, now that their dining rooms are closed to the public, are using Door Dash and other online services to continue their business transactions. Several are offering curbside and drive-thru service in the interim. All advise calling ahead with orders.

Jewelers feel pinch

In addition to restaurants, other local businesses like jewelry stores and boutiques have reported they’re feeling the closure of the coronavirus pandemic. While many loyal customers continue to purchase over the phone or online, the usual foot traffic is gone for the time being.

“We have decided to follow the majority and close Lowery Jewelers until things with the virus improve,” Billy Lowery of Lowery Jewelers said. “We stayed three days to test the market but no one is shopping for things except essentials....We appreciate the support and hope as we come back even stronger, that there will be a new appreciation for local businesses. We are in this together. Stay healthy, stay strong, keep the faith. Let’s keep our eyes looking UP to the one who is in control.

“If by chance anyone needs anything I have in my shop, I will be honored to set up an appointment to meet you. All sales appreciated.”

One thing in favor of small businesses is the U.S. Small Business Administration loan program, which will assist those suffering “substantially” during the coronavirus. These will be considered low interest loans and the deadline to apply is Dec. 21. Please see SBA.gov/coronavirus for more information.

Linda Brown, owner of Heritage Jewelers, said, “We are now closed from March 23 to April 5. We plan to reopen April 6.”

Brown said she has the utmost concern for community health.

“By being closed, we are hopefully eliminating one reason for our customers to leave their homes,” Brown said.

Industry

While many businesses are having to lock up for a few weeks, some industries are also having to shut down production as a result of the coronavirus pandemic across the country.

Marelli (formerly Calsonic Kensai) stated Monday that over the last two weeks, it has closely monitored the spread of the coronavirus. The company further stated it is following recommendations of national, state and local authorities, and has implemented a series of precautions to protect the health and safety of its employees.

A press release from the company stated: “Many OEM customers have announced temporary plant closures due to the rising concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. These closures will have a significant impact on the business, driving down demand for product.”

As a result, Marelli leadership has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend manufacturing operations in many of its North American plants. Closures will happen in a staggered fashion, with the overall duration to be evaluated every few days. In some cases, operations may continue on a reduced scale to align with customer needs.”

Shelbyville-Bedford County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Allen Pitner said Monday while he cannot comment on the production situations of local industries, he has reached out to their human resource departments within the local mayors’ task force. He said that industry officials have assured him that their corporations are following all OSHA and World Health Organization guidelines for keeping their team work areas sanitized.

Pitner is answering Chamber phones himself and has asked his staff to stay home as a precaution.

The chamber has also started, he said, a Facebook page named, “Bedford County TN Open for Business.” Several businesses are posting buying options and hours.

Urban Plantation posted: “We also have a big parking lot if you will need to eat in your car!”

Chicken supply

Those working around the Tyson Foods, Inc., Shelbyville plant said Wedneday that it looks like “business as usual.”

Of course, with every corporation facing such a virus pandemic, protocols must be in place.

Derek Burleson, Tyson human resources official, said today, “We have mandatory health care coverage for our team members and have made changes to our benefits. We’re waiving the five consecutive day waiting period for short term disability benefits, so workers can receive pay while they’re sick with the flu or COVID-19.”

In addition, Tyson is waiving the co-pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing as well as eliminating pre-approval or preauthorization steps. The company is also waiving co-pays for the use of telemedicine and relaxing refill limits for 30-day prescriptions of maintenance medications.

“As a precaution, we’re starting to take team member temperatures before they enter our facilities. This practice is already in place at two plants and is being expanded to all of our U.S. team members. We’re restricting visitor access to our plants and have also relaxed our attendance policy to reinforce the importance of staying home when sick.”

Burleson said since information is the best tool for combatting the spread of COVID-19, Tyson Foods has been diligent about educating team members about the virus and ways to avoid catching it.

“Our role as America’s largest food company is critical. Our nation’s leaders recognize that. That’s why we continue to work with government officials to make sure our plants don’t face any roadblocks in our effort to keep feeding people.”

Newell

Newell said this morning that screenings and other health precautions are being conducted at the plant. Company officials advised much changes day by day but Newell plans to keep their employees and the community updated.

• The Times-Gazette will continue as a local service to provide information on local businesses and companies as we receive updates.