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Coronavirus in Oklahoma: Oklahoma City area businesses report little impact from COVID-19 — for now

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Though countless corporate workers began working from home this week, Ada native and Texas resident Randy Sachs reported to his office as usual Monday.

Only Monday — perhaps because his marketing/communications team at Medical City North Hills were deemed “essential employees” and required to work at the hospital — Sachs stopped at Starbucks to treat himself to a gourmet coffee.

“There’s no condiment bar at Starbucks,” Sachs posted on Facebook. “They add your cream and sugar for you,” he said, “and seating is being limited, too.”

He isn't the only one noticing the effects the coronavirus has on businesses, but concerns still vary.

Preparing for what's to come

Based on feedback Monday from local employers and a survey released Friday by the National Federation of Independent Business, the majority of businesses are bracing for direct impact by the coronavirus — even if they haven't felt its direct effects yet.

Currently, the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting 23% of small business owners, based on 300 responses to an NFIB email survey of its 300,000 or so members. Among those, 39% are experiencing supply chain disruptions; 42%, slower sales; and 4%, sick employees — not necessarily infected with the coronavirus, but exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms.

About 28% of small business owners are “very concerned” about the virus’ potential impact, and 16% of are “somewhat concerned,” NFIB found.

Meanwhile, through Sunday evening, U.S. companies announced and confirmed 634 job cuts specifically tied to the outbreak, according to tracking by Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. Most of the cuts were in the entertainment/leisure industry, followed by the transportation, energy and consumer products industries.

In Oklahoma

Locally, Locke Supply Co., Tulsa-based Melton Truck Lines, Ditch Witch of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City-based Stability Cannabis medical marijuana cultivator, and a local hair salon owner all report similar effects.

"As of Monday, the COVID-19 virus has had limited financial effect on Locke Supply,” said John Orman III, president and CEO. “The coming impact we expect has more to do with delayed shipment of products caused by the domino effects throughout the world.”

Locke, a plumbing, electrical and HVAC distributor that employs 785 across 48 locations, is taking internal measures to ensure the safety of its employees and their families, Orman said. The company suspended all non-essential business activities, including the trade show it holds every three years.

“Most of our associates cannot work remotely, but those that can are doing so to limit interaction,” he said. “We have implemented social distancing and additional sanitation practices in our facilities and, currently, our branch locations and distribution center are operating with as much normalcy as is possible.”

Melton Truck Lines CEO and Chairman Bob Peterson said, “So far, the impact on our overall trucking operations has been modest.”

Melton, which employs more than 260 at its corporate office, began setting up people to work remotely last week, he said.

“We’re staggering some work hours, as we’re able, to accomplish more ‘social distancing,’” Peterson said. “We’ve dedicated employees to wiping down frequently touched surfaces in our building. Our truck drivers are the epitome of social distancing in that they’re by themselves most of the time. I did a YouTube to our drivers reinforcing what the CDC has been emphasizing.”

Ditch Witch of Oklahoma owner Gary Bridwell, whose 51 employees sell underground utility construction equipment from two Oklahoma locations, said, “So far, we are not seeing any negative impact.

"Last week, for instance, sales both in new equipment and parts were steady,” he said.

Ditch Witch halted commercial air travel, requiring some employees instead to drive to training in Illinois this week. The company also adopted a “no handshakes” policy and asked employees to practice good social distancing with each other and customers, wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, and stay home if they feel ill.

“We are cleaning door handles and public restrooms, as well as coffee and break room areas, four times a day,” Bridwell said.

Stability Cannabis, which employs 80, told employees to stay home “if they had any flu-like symptoms or just didn’t feel right … or stay home if they felt at risk of exposure,” Chief Operating Officer David Lewis said.

As a result, five employees stayed home Thursday and Friday.

Stability also secured additional disinfecting materials and increased its janitorial cycle to ensure its work environment stays as clean and sterile as is possible, he said.

“Unfortunately, working from home is not a viable option given the regulated nature of our industry,” he said.

Sarah Patton, stylist and co-owner of Twelve06 in Edmond, has had only a couple of customers cancel appointments, for fear of contracting the virus. “So far it’s nothing too terrible,” she said, “and we hope it stays like that.”

Paula Burkes

Paula Burkes has nearly 40 years' experience writing and editing award-winning material, including since early 2001 with the business desk of The Oklahoman. After earning a journalism degree from Oklahoma State University in 1981, Paula wrote for... Read more ›

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