As we come into the last few months of 2020 — the year that many of us wish didn’t happen — I believe it is important for all of us to take a serious look at the possibility of a worsening of the pandemic situation. I tend to look at the positive side of things in general, but I think there are a number of factors that point to a gloomy immediate future.
So, I am going to suggest that we take positive steps to avoid the potential impacts of what may come, and begin seriously planning ahead. Planning and preparedness can reduce general anxiety about unpredictable events, and planning can greatly reduce stress when those events come to fruition. The worst that can happen is that the preparations and planning are not necessary. The best thing that can happen is to reduce the overall impact of the worst-case scenario.
WHY SO BLEAK?
Of course, nobody knows for sure what is going to happen with the Coronavirus pandemic in the next few months. Nonetheless, studying recent trends, historical data, and the predictions of experts in public health, it appears that there are a number of factors that indicate the situation will get worse before it gets better. These include: • The possible post-Labor Day weekend uptick • Initial attempts to return students to college campuses • The approaching “normal” flu season
Labor Day Weekend
As I write, we are coming out of the Labor Day weekend, and it’s clear that across the country, social distancing was “off the table” for many. Let’s look at San Diego as an example. Lodging in the county was virtually impossible to find — I know this because friends had to evacuate from backcountry areas ravaged by wildfires and spent hours online trying to find a hotel room; they never did. This indicates that many people came into the city from other states and other California counties.
In fact, “Labor Day weekend was the busiest period for US air travel in nearly six months” according to CNN Business online. And according to surveys, 60 percent of Americans planned to travel by car over the weekend (USA Today, September 5, 2020).
Our local beaches were packed. “Sig-alerts” were issued (the term the California Highway Patrol uses to warn of dire traffic problems) for main thoroughfares leading to the beaches here. Watching coverage of Labor Day weekend activities from the local news stations, one could not help but notice that beach and park goers were not social distancing and mask-wearing was not the norm on the crowded sand.
San Diego relaxed its “dine-outside-only” restrictions coincidentally on the Monday before the weekend. Restaurants and bars were allowed to re-open indoor dining (although at a greatly reduced capacity). To me, the hilarious thing about this one factor is that the easing of restrictions were announced in the same press conference in which the county health department director showed outbreak statistics that clearly showed that in-door dining at restaurants and bars was the most common source of new cases of COVID-19 during the last period of relaxation of indoor activity restrictions in July and August!
Watching national news coverage, it is clear that San Diego was only one example of nationwide Labor Day celebrations that included heavy travel and large crowds. This is exactly what epidemiologists warn will lead to the spread of infection between people and between communities. It will take weeks to realize the full impact of the Labor Day weekend, but I expect that the result will be an increase in cases.
College Students On-Campus
The September 6 issue of the San Diego Union-Tribune carried an article reporting that 51,000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded at 1,000 colleges over the last few weeks as they brought students back in for in-person learning. Although many of these campuses immediately shut down and returned to online classes, most of the students are still in dorms and local housing and subject to the temptation of partying together.
Again, watching coverage of San Diego campuses, video shows many students walking around campus or gathering in small groups without face coverings. And, we’ve all seen the social media photos of crowded hallways and huge parties at campuses around the country. Who knows how many such situations are not being recorded.
Coronavirus spread among young adults is particularly scary because they can carry the virus without displaying any COVID-19 symptoms.
The impact of the Labor Day weekend activities and college re-openings will take time to assess. Infectious-disease experts point out, “the Coronavirus has a relatively long incubation period, and the disease progression . . . tends to be drawn out over several weeks. As a result, any spike in deaths will lag weeks behind a spike in infections. And the (COVID-19) infection surges have consistently followed the loosening of shutdown orders and other restrictions.” (The San Diego Union-Tribune, September 6).
The Flu Season
Additionally, the “normal” flu season is arriving in the coming months. It begins typically in late fall, peaks in mid-to-late winter (between January and February) and continues into early spring.
According to the Centers for Disease Control website, “the CDC estimates that the burden of illness during the 2018–2019 season included an estimated 35.5 million people getting sick with influenza, 16.5 million people going to a healthcare provider for their illness, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths from influenza.” Remember, this is the influenza that occurs every year and does not include SARS-CoV-2.
If we have a similar “flu season” this year, beginning in October, then you can add the numbers in the previous paragraph to the numbers we’ve seen from SARS-CoV-2 in the last few months. This could be a scary time from the standpoint of potentially over-burdened healthcare systems that will be dealing with millions of people coming down with the flu and simultaneously an increase in COVID-19 cases. I’ve never been a fan of the annual flu shot, but I’m going to get one this year!
All of these factors, as well as others indicated by experts, lead those experts to tell us to expect a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases, with statistics for hospitalizations and deaths that might even exceed the ones we’ve seen in previous peaks of the illness. They’ve been talking about this for months.
Certainly, the behaviors and conditions noted in the previous paragraphs could contribute to this.
OKAY, I’M SCARED. NOW WHAT?
Wait, I’m not done. As the pandemic rolls along, there will also be other events that will impact life — the hurricane season, civil unrest, the political upheaval surrounding the Presidential election, and who knows what other unexpected events.
Moreover, experts predict peaks of Coronavirus infections in late November through late December — happy holidays everyone! — as well as the normal flu spikes in January and February.
This is where the planning and preparedness come in. We can plan for continued and increased impact from the Coronavirus because we know it’s not going away soon, and it will probably get worse. We can prepare for other eventualities.
To deal with the pandemic, we can continue to follow recommended safety and disinfection protocols. I also recommend laying-in disinfection and personal protection equipment supplies whenever possible. Of course, some of these items are difficult to find, so it is important to stay in touch with your suppliers and stock up when items become available.
Also, make sure your detail operation is fully stocked and equipment is maintained. Supply lines are fluctuating dramatically, and there may be moments when the things that are normally available at a moment’s notice simply run out. For example, key ingredients of your favorite detailing chemical may not be available due to high demand, thus making it impossible for the supplier to manufacture that chemical.
I’m not suggesting hoarding, just be prudent about your supplies and don’t let them get too low before ordering more. I’m just as guilty as anyone else in letting that one favorite chemical run out and having to order it last minute.
The same preparations go for equipment. Ensure that it is properly maintained and all repairs done as quickly as possible. Should you have to send equipment in for repair, shipping is going to be extremely expensive. For example, an item that I have been able to ship for about $35 for years now costs $135 to ship.
Perform the necessary maintenance and repairs on your mobile vehicle and to your shop facilities — don’t put it off. Also consider keeping emergency supplies in your vehicle and in your shop — things like extra water, non-perishable food, and first aid supplies.
If you have not already done so, take advantage of the government grants and loan programs, both federal and local. If you don’t understand how all that works, get with your banker or a business acquaintance who can help you. No need to go broke when there’s money available.
Also consider pulling back on business and personal expenses. Take a hard look at discretionary spending, both in your business and personal life. This is a good time to try to save extra dollars in case of emergency or unexpected expenditures in the coming months.
As I have said many times in the last few months, keep informed about the pandemic, and the latest advice on reducing transmission of Coronavirus. Continue to consider new ways to serve your customers, either with new services or modified current services. If your cash flow is suffering, consider alternate streams of income — part-time work or a side-business that doesn’t require a large investment to start. Stay agile in your business life, always looking for new opportunities. And help those around you that need it.
We are likely to be coming into some difficult times in the coming months. Reduce the possible impact of this by preparing and planning now.
Prentice St. Clair is an International Detailing Association Recognized Trainer and Certified Detailer. As the president of Detail in Progress Inc., he has been providing training and consulting to car washes and detail shops since 1999. He is available at (619) 701-1100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.