Nfld. & Labrador

Reopening a business is tough in a pandemic. These clinics and stores share their insights

When physiotherapy clinics and thrift store open again on Monday, it will not be business as usual. Extra cleaning, PPE and quarantined clothes will be on the agenda.

Additional PPE and cleaning for physios, quarantined clothes at thrift stores

Kim Furlong says the N.L. Balance and Dizzyness Centre has stocked up on personal protective equipment and cleaners in preparation to reopen on Monday. (Kim Furlong/Submitted)

Physiotherapy clinics and thrift stores may not have much in common, but they will both be allowed to reopen Monday as Newfoundland and Labrador moves to Alert Level 3 in the COVID-19 pandemic — and they both face special challenges in running their businesses safely. 

Kim Furlong, owner of N.L. Balance and Dizzyness Centre in St. John's, says she and her staff are anxious to start seeing their clients again, but they've had to make a lot of changes to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Their therapist will look a little different. We will have to be doing a risk assessment to see what the risk is for treating that patient, all our staff and therapists will be wearing a face mask," she said.

"It'll be quite different for the client, but I hope they'll feel they'll still get the same services. But it will look different."

The centre has added floor markings and removed extra chairs and equipment to allow for physical distancing, and has stocked up on personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to keep staff and clients safe.

Furlong says floor markings have been added and extra equipment has been removed to allow for physical distancing. (Kim Furlong/Submitted)

Furlong's clinic, which works with people with balance impairments and offers physiotherapy services, has been closed since March 20. It will be ready to reopen Monday.

"As soon as this notice came out for June 8, our phone has been ringing off the hook. Clients are desperate to get in for their hands-on therapy and their exercises," she said.

"If you have a room spinning every time you roll over, you're not very happy and the longer you have to wait to get that treated, the worse you'll feel."

Furlong said the clinic will be doing hybrid care, with some virtual appointments and some in-person appointments. She said staff were able to ramp up their online services and were able to do more than 200 virtual visits after closing the doors to the clinic.

For the time being, Furling said, her clinic will be operating at half-capacity, but she's glad to be able to open the doors to patients again. 

Reduced capacity difficult for business

Physiotherapist Corey Pritchett says his clinic will also be operating at 50 per cent capacity but will be extending hours to see more patients and keep the business going.

Pritchett said the reduction in clients won't be easy for Nova Physiotherapy in St. John's, of which he is a part owner, especially after the slowdown as a result of January's historic blizzard.

"For a lot of small businesses, whether or not a 50 per cent capacity is enough to keep them afloat remains to be seen," he said.

Corey Pritchett says there'll be plenty of extra cleaning, and physiotherapists will wear masks and gowns when Nova Physiotherapy reopens Monday. (CBC)

Pritchett said the clinic has already been thoroughly cleaned, and when clients begin returning Monday, they'll have to wear masks and wait outside before being called in for their appointments.

He said physiotherapists will also wear masks and gowns and see one patient at a time, with plenty of extra cleaning. 

"It's a lot of work involved trying to make things work," said Pritchett.

"Usually you'd have two people working at the same time doing different things, so now when somebody comes in … you're in for your 45 minutes to an hour and that's it, you're only dealing with that physio."

Thrift stores preparing to open when ready

Meanwhile, two thrift store operators say they aren't rushing to get customers back in the stores.

Maj. Rene Loveless says the Salvation Army's 17 thrift stores will open as soon as it's possible to safely do so. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

The Salvation Army runs 17 thrift stores across Newfoundland and Labrador, and Maj. Rene Loveless says they'll be making sure everything is safe before reopening.

"After weeks of being closed due to COVID-19, we're certainly looking forward to opening our doors to the public again," he said.

"But at the same time, we want to ensure that we are doing our part to keep our staff and the community safe.… So the reality is that some of these stores may not open on the very first day that we're into Alert Level 3, but they will open as soon as possible when they have all things in order to safely do so."

Mari-Lynn Taylor, who runs Choices for Youth's second-hand clothing store Neighbourhood in the east end of St. John's, as well as her own downtown vintage and designer resale store Model Citizens, says she'll also be taking similar precautions.

Taylor said Neighbourhood aims to open June 22, with Model Citizens opening later in the summer, due in part to the challenges of importing some of its inventory.

Mari-Lynn Taylor says she'll likely be busy when Neighbourhood and Model Citizens reopen. (Mari-Lynn Taylor)

But one of the particular challenges facing thrift shops is the intake of donated clothes. 

Clothes need to be held for 24 hours

New government guidelines recommend stores hold clothing items for at least 24 hours before putting them out for sale, but Taylor said both her shops will hold items for two full days. Loveless said Salvation Army will hold onto clothes for four days.

"We don't have precise information on how this virus lives on fabric, so better safe than sorry," Taylor said.

Both Taylor and Loveless expect to be busy when they do reopen, with more donations and increased demand for clothes.

We expect the need for affordable clothing and household items to be very high.- Maj. Rene Loveless

"Last year we had the Marie Kondo boom, where we were totally inundated with donations, and I feel like we're going to be in a similar place once we reopen," Taylor said, referring to the bestselling author and TV personality who advises purging items people no longer need.

"From Neighbourhood, the biggest outcry we're hearing is that parents don't have places to go to buy things for their kids, summer clothes, shorts, T-shirts, things like that. If you've got those things lying around, I'd imagine they're going to be big sellers."

Loveless said they'll be ready for the increased business.

"We expect the need for affordable clothing and household items to be very high in the days and weeks and months ahead," he said.

"During these scary and unpredictable times, we've remained committed to helping individuals and families in our community and we hope people will certainly return to our stores and find the things that they need."

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