Health Care Heroes, First Responders, Grocery Store Workers & More Detail Experiences During Outbreak
Photography provided by Norton Healthcare, Kroger, LMPD and Independence Bank
It wasn’t the empty grocery shelves or the vacant restaurants and bars that made living through the COVID-19 lockdown so difficult. It wasn’t even the cancellation of the Kentucky Derby Festival. What made self-isolation so hard was the way the community was forced to stop business as usual overnight and adapt to a new normal.
After the “Healthy at Home” initiative was announced in March, all nonessential retail businesses, restaurants and bars were required to close to in-person traffic. Some police services were curtailed. Schools, parks and churches closed their doors, and medical facilities ceased elective procedures, all in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Our city shutdown and uncertainty, fear and frustration hovered over in the air for weeks. Yet, in spite of the undercurrent of anxiety, first responders and essential workers showed up to work to ensure essential businesses remained open.
The truth is, frontline and essential workers weren’t expecting to work during the pandemic. Yet, in spite of the limited resources and social distancing mandates, they bravely showed up on the frontlines day after day. Also, there was an immediate quest to find creative ways to keep the community safely running during a time of crisis.
“After Gov. Andy Beshear directed that elective medical procedures be postponed, medical facilities changed drastically overnight,” says Lynnie Meyer, Senior Vice-President and Chief Development Officer of Norton Hospital Louisville. “Our patient volume was down because elective procedures and outpatient care were postponed. However, leadership continued to pay staff during the periods of low volume.”
Meyer says that some of Norton’s staff were asked to stay at home but ready to return to work if needed while continuing to be paid.
“We wanted to ensure they were healthy and ready in case we reached surge capacity,” Meyer adds. “Other health care systems had to lay off a segment of their workforce due to lower patient numbers.”
While some medical facilities had to close their doors entirely, hospitals like Norton Hospital in Louisville remained operational.
“In addition to caring for our patients infected with COVID-19, we began taking special care of our staff,” Meyer says. “We wanted to ensure we nurtured their spirits and helped with the stress and grief they were enduring. It’s our job to remember that the work they do can easily take its toll. We provided resources so they could continue to do their jobs.”
Norton offered daily meal stipends, respite areas for employees on 12-hour shifts, chaplains available 24-hours a day and uplifting daily texts of encouragement.
“The pandemic truly brought out the best in everyone,” Meyer says. “There’s been such an enormous outreach of support from the community. It confirms that we are truly in this together.”The LMPD had to make some revisions as well.
“Gov. Beshear’s emergency order required Louisville Metro Police to change the way our officers respond to calls,” says Sgt. Lamont Washington, LMPD Media and Public Relations Office.
To minimize the risk of face-to-face exposure, LMPD increased the capacity of its telephone reporting unit for non-emergency crime reporting. More calls for service were sent to the reporting unit for situations where a report could be taken by phone instead of dispatching an officer.
Community outreach via the department’s social media pages included reading children’s stories for storytime and video reminders by officers to stay at home and avoid crowds. In communities, officers did drive-by parades for children’s birthdays, honored the medical staff at hospitals with a gauntlet during shift changes and checked on elderly citizens, ensuring they maintained the social distancing protocols.
“We began asking all patients and all staff to wear masks and gloves and to have their temperatures taken upon entering the building,” says Dr. Dan Bowerson of Bowersox Vision Center.
“We decreased the number of patients we see in a day to increase social distancing, and we extended hours to allow patients with ocular emergencies such as foreign bodies, vision loss, corneal abrasions and infections to be seen in an even more low-risk environment. We were happy to serve in a small way to keep people out of the ER, Urgent Care centers and family doctors’ offices so those people could more easily contend with the crisis at hand,” he says.
Kroger began to monitor the number of customers per square foot in its stores using its industry-leading QueVision technology, which already provides a count of the customers entering and exiting stores.
“By leveraging QueVision, our technology system that uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics, we are able to more efficiently support our new capacity limits, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates,” says Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief technology and digital officer.
Kroger’s new customer capacity limits joins other measures the retailer has established to promote physical distancing, including the addition of plexiglass partitions and educational floor decals and airing of a healthy habits message via in-store radio to encourage customers to practice good hygiene and spatial awareness.
Kroger and its affiliates have also recently implemented protective and preventive measures, including protective face masks and gloves for associates and associate wellness checks.
“Our introduction of customer capacity limits is one more way we are doing our part to flatten the curve while operating as an essential business, providing our customers with access to fresh, affordable food and products,” says Erin Grant, Kroger Corporate Affairs Manager & Media Relations. “During this national pandemic, we are committed to adopting preventive measures to help protect the safety and health of our associates, customers and communities.”
Kroger also worked to establish drive-thru testing centers that are open to residents of Kentucky.
“Kroger Health’s vision is to help people live healthier lives, and it has never been more important as we help to expand testing across the Commonwealth,” says Colleen Lindholz, President of Kroger Health. “This work is guided by our values and our promise to Feed the Human Spirit. We continue to make decisions that balance the safety of our associates with our commitments to our customers and communities.”
Kroger and The Little Clinic are donating all professional services at drive-thru testing facilities, including ordering and observing the COVID-19 tests.
Banking is also a service that has been crucial in the past few months, especially for small business owners and area banks have taken steps to continue providing services, while keeping their customers safe.
“We have adhered to recommended policies to stop the spread of the disease by conducting all teller transactions at our drive-thru lanes,” says Louis Straub, President of Independence Bank.
“We directed our clients to use online resources and kept the bank open for client appointments only. Independence Bank is a people business and we specialize in personal service for our clients,” he says. “We miss being in front of our clients and other team members.
Banking services that used to be performed in person were conducted remotely, via conference call, or email. Straub says that working from home has also raised unexpected challenges, but they used online communications services such as Zoom to ensure they kept their client and personal service front and center.
After the federal government rolled out the SBA Payment Protection Program, Independence Bank worked to process the applications, in spite of limited instructions.
“The government initiated the program with very little instruction to small business owners or the banks,” Straub says. “Processing the loans was a tedious and tremendous effort accomplished by constant communication and teamwork between the bank and our clients. I am very proud of our team that spent countless hours to assist our clients.”