Life in Rochester as they knew it has come to a standstill, most Rochester Beacon readers say.
With the arrival of the global coronavirus pandemic in our region, business owners are bracing for a slowdown—some have felt it already—while those who normally work in an office are now learning to conduct meetings and, in some cases, teach from home. Along with concerns about their own health, readers worry about their children’s interrupted education, and the well-being of elderly neighbors and relatives. Social distancing and self-quarantine have become part of the local lexicon.
“(I am a) single parent,” one reader says. “Worried about losing my job, paying for essentials and keeping my kids in their current school district if I can’t afford my home. The future is scary enough, but I’m most worried about next week and next month.”
The Rochester Beacon conducted a survey of its nearly 2,500 weekly email subscribers Wednesday to understand the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on work and daily lives. As of March 18, Monroe County had 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with one death.
There were nearly 2,400 confirmed cases in New York and more than 7,800 nationwide. Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 180,000 people and has killed nearly 8,000, including more than 130 in the U.S.
In response to the threat posed by the rapidly spreading virus, state and local officials have taken actions ranging from the closure of schools, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms, to event cancellations and limits on crowd capacity for social and recreational gatherings.
The economic ramifications of the health emergency also have been unprecedented: Some businesses have been forced to close; many others have told their employees to work remotely. And the stock market has plummeted more than 30 percent since its peak in mid-February. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 shed another 5 percent.
Yet so far, Beacon readers see reason for confidence about local efforts to confront the pandemic. Asked about the Rochester region’s ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus outbreak, 67 percent said they were “somewhat optimistic” and 16 percent replied “very optimistic.” Only 2 percent were “very pessimistic.”
“In the coming days and weeks,” wrote Faheem Masood, president and CEO of ESL Federal Credit Union, “I am sure we will hear stories of individual acts across Greater Rochester that will be uplifting and will reinforce our belief that we are one of the strongest and most resilient communities anywhere!”
Nearly 150 readers responded to the Beacon survey question: “How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted your work and daily life?”
Here are some of the signed responses:
Our 35-person company is functioning remotely, in large measure without disruption. We’re all adapting rapidly to our new remote work environment. I am impressed with how quickly both our people and the broader community are responding to this crisis.
I work for a nonprofit arts organization and beginning tomorrow I will be working from home. There is some fear that many in our organization will eventually not be paid. We also have concerns about fundraising and keeping ur community engaged with us while we hunker down and wait this out. Currently my home life will be fine for a while as we anticipated this and prepared. However, I am especially concerned for my eldest daughter who is an artist and all her jobs have been closed leaving her no income. We will take everything one day at a time and stay positive. Fingers crossed!
—Debbie Tretter, The Hochstein School
First of all, I’m very optimistic. Rochester has always been a community that comes together to handle a significant issue like this and the response to local, state, and federal directives will be fast. A perfect example of this is our 5,000 Paychex employees in Rochester. We’ve worked to move more than 85 percent of local employees to work-from-home status in five days. This represents impressive teamwork by our IT and HR organizations and all employees, responding quickly to the directives of company leadership to keep them safe and continue to provide excellent service to our clients and their employees. Regarding the daily impact, it’s taken over as the lead discussion each day of our executive leadership team as to how we continue to provide exceptional service to our 670,000 clients across the U.S. —supporting them with their critical payroll, HR, and insurance needs as well as helping them navigate the fast-changing regulations and requirements for their employees—while also communicating with our employees to help them work effectively and safely work from a remote location. Despite the unprecedented challenge, it’s also a time of extreme pride in how our leadership and employees have responded to the challenge so quickly with care for their clients and colleagues.
—Marty Mucci, president and CEO, Paychex Inc.
I am in Guangzhou, China. We had very strict travel restrictions that are easing; everything except for supermarkets were closed. February, the streets were empty it looked like ghost towns. Now things are slowly coming back to normal. We still must wear masks. We get our temperatures taken on the bus, to enter stores, etc. Most schools are still closed but look like they will open in April.
I’m retired and in the over-80 high-risk group, so I’m taking the restrictions and recommendations very seriously. Fortunately, I have no additional risks beyond age. I’m working puzzles with my wife, watching entertainment in the evening, avoiding all the cable news programs (except for the Channel 10 weather), and staying in touch with friends and family by phone and email. However, I am appalled at the total insensitivity of the hoarders who are cleaning the shelves in Wegmans and other stores. If we cooperate, we survive, but hoarding puts us all at risk.
Business has slowed substantially because of concerns about the continued strength of the economy.
— Rob Brown
Face to face social interaction has come to a halt, family trips have been canceled, dining out is not an option, visits to stores have been limited to get groceries.
We are very fortunate to have the ability to go 100% virtual with every employee equipped with a laptop, a secure internet connection, cloud-based software and virtual meeting tools. Our quick response allowed our employees to make preparations last week so as of this Monday we could be fully online and available to assist our clients. That said, there has certainly been adjustments, especially working alongside spouses and school-aged children vs. work colleagues! But there is a sense of community and we’ll all get through this together!
—Kimberly Jones, President & CEO, Butler/Till
Like everyone else, work and daily life have been significantly affected. Fortunately, NextCorps and the types of companies we serve are fairly comfortable with technology. So moving to virtual meetings and workshops, online coaching and mentoring sessions, etc., has not been too difficult a transition. And, we are also fortunate that, while never as good as seeing each other in person, many of our staff members are able to carry out their jobs remotely. We consider ourselves very lucky in that regard. Moving forward, we are all first and foremost focused on the health and safety of our families, friends, and coworkers. And after that, we are focused on continuing to provide services to our clients to help them grow and prosper, ultimately leading to more economic growth here in our region. Some of the strongest and most successful companies in America were built during recessions—so we’re eager to help our current teams join those ranks. Oh, and we are going to have a really great party when we are through all of this!
—Jim Senall, NextCorps Inc.
The Strong closed to the public on Friday, March 13. Our focus has shifted to how we continue to fulfill our educational and engagement mission utilizing social media tools to engage our constituents. We believe that play and engagement for people of all ages is critically important in times of crisis and we are focusing on providing outlets to enable that to occur.
—Steve Dubnik, president and CEO, The Strong National Museum of Play
Completely and entirely. Everything, every bit of life’s engagements that we normally conducted, now have a question mark next to them. That said, my firm has done a terrific job of first and foremost looking out for the safety and well-being of our partners, employees and clients. In terms of conducting business, everything is filtered through a lens as to how we can do things for our clients while again, entirely protecting everyone. We are working with a skeletal crew while most work from home. And we are prepared for a time where everyone will work from home. We have detailed protocols that we are all following. We have handed out toilet paper too!
Complete work-from-home model for all employees.
—Justin Copie, Innovative Solutions
Certainly both work and daily life have been disrupted significantly! However, our core values—of initiative, teamwork, integrity, and caring about people—have giving us strength and are guiding us through these challenging times. The power of people coming together to do amazing things for each other is palpable and impactful! In the coming days and weeks I am sure we will hear stories of individual acts across Greater Rochester that will be uplifting and will reinforce our belief that we are one of the strongest and most resilient communities anywhere!
We are retired. I am not very worried for myself, but my wife has to take an immunosuppressant drug for rheumatoid arthritis which puts her at heightened risk fighting the virus. Our daughter is getting her vet tech degree at a local community college, which is figuring out how to do provide online classes and “lower risk” labs. Our son works at Wegmans and is working longer hours due to the shopping frenzy. I am very disappointed in our government readiness and initial chaotic response—but checked off “somewhat optimistic” because of the global response to creating a vaccine.
It looks like my business, which normally is conducted face to face, has moved completely to electronic methods. I am a management consultant and all of my existing clients are continuing with our projects, but I don’t know yet how this will affect new client acquisition.
Working from home and trying to arrange pastoral care without face-to-face contact.
I give presentations on poverty; all are cancelled through the next two months and I presume those beyond that will be cancelled as well. I miss the contact with friends and family.
A lot, but don’t know what’s around the corner! Trump regime wanted to disband CDC et al and suppose follow that with additional incompetence, some of which we’ve experienced!
Projects/programs are postponed indefinitely and clients are overwhelmed. As a result, they are not able to make decisions related to my work (or other business issues). I am using Zoom extensively and able to do some remote work; however, the uncertainty has people hunkering down. Every conversation (with) them while they cope with the virus, protocols. Most of my clients have no-visitor policies. Since my clients are national (and Canada), travel is restricted. On a scale of 1-10, the impact is a 9.5. We will weather this, but I feel for many people, businesses that cannot weather this impact. Like a reset on a computer, it is unclear (what) it will take to reboot and the condition of the computer after the reboot. Locally, many businesses will be impacted as people don’t make decisions, make purchases etc.
I am retired, so social distancing has only affected my ability to see friends and family, on top of making us think ahead and think harder about shopping for essentials. I compliment the county and city’s actions on the crisis so far, but fear we need to impose even more of a lockdown—but we need support for that from the state and federal levels.
—Martin Nott, Rochester
I set up remote working solutions last week for our organization and am now working from home. As long as I am healthy, do not believe I’ve been exposed, and there’s no major shutdown, I do plan to go into the office periodically to pick up mail so we can stay current on invoices where I have not been able to set up electronic billing yet. My daughter is a high schooler doing school from home, and needs some guidance and direction, so I am taking periodic work breaks to check on her to make sure she’s staying on target to get assignments turned in. I did a two-week grocery shopping trip (as best as I could) instead of my usual one-week shopping trip midweek last week before everything got too crazy. I am so thankful I didn’t wait until the weekend when I usually shop as many things were gone or nearly gone. For example, to get rice and canned beans, I had to get organic rather than the cheaper store brand that I usually use, but I’m grateful to have been able to get that. I’ve been out one other time to try to pick up a few items that I didn’t get last week. We tried to pick up a meal from school today, but we learned that they cannot accommodate food allergies with the pickup meals (which is understandable), so we will not continue that. My church has closed and is doing live streaming. Other groups of friends I regularly see have set up group chats and video meetings. I don’t believe I will need to go out for at least another week (and will likely coordinate that trip with checking mail at work). Beyond that, I don’t plan to be out other than necessary groceries or medical care until this crisis passes. I should add a caveat to my answer that I’m somewhat optimistic—I’m optimistic if we shut things down enough and people abide by that so that it slows/limits the spread as much as possible. If we haven’t acted quickly enough and people don’t abide by the limitations, then I’m more pessimistic.
Of course it has. Regardless of my own lifestyle. Concern about inventory of kitchen cabinets, freezer, and life’s necessities. Social distancing makes sense but is a change. Everything is “wash your hands,” OK. Don’t touch your face. NO ONE is saying wash your face am and pm well with soap. I DO! Make sense? Thanks.
Number of patients seen is reduced by about 2/3. Now providing telephone visits. Elective surgery postponed. Daughter came for a weekend visit from NYC and is staying in ROC at least an extra 1-2 weeks while working remotely. Other daughter’s semester at RIT will finish online, she has moved home. Spring rowing season cancelled. Put our house on the market March 1. Traffic has ground to a halt. Inventing new recipes with ingredients on hand and what Wegmans has in stock! But, we are healthy and grateful that people are listening to experts’ directives. Best wishes to all.
Working from home. Preparing church services for FB Live, not in the building.
—Dr. Gloria Roorda
As a computer science major at RIT, my classes have switched to being online. Homework has always been submitted online, so that is not a change, but lectures will now be somehow online. I am confident I will be able to receive the sufficient information in order to complete my projects even through these means. A club that I am in that distributes unused food from RIT dining services locations and distributes it to churches and homeless shelters has been suspended due to lack of food to deliver since most of ROY’s dining locations are closed. On the other hand, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship will continue being a club on campus through other means that could look like video chat Bible studies, completing the YouVersion Bible app’s reading plans together, and/or having worship sessions communally online.
I am retired, so it has not affected my work life. I can no longer go to the gym and I am staying home more than usual. I am also concerned about my retirement accounts.
We are OK both being paid to stay home trying to keep focused taking things seriously.
Locally, the independent studio is experiencing a delivery and installation delay due to emergency only access. This will affect invoicing and income while expenses remain in demand. For another project, a scheduled site review and kick off meeting in Ohio is unlikely to occur due to health precautions. Not ideal, but we are considering video transmissions, and online meetings and exchange of visual information to see the project moving forward. For this same project, two types of artistic glass are specified, both small glass foundries have had mandatory shutdowns. The foundry in Venice, Italy is not making or shipping material. It is a very sad scenario in Venice. This will slow the supply chain and quite possibly add a significant price to the project if we proceed with purchasing from retail distributors, who many not even have the quantity needed. The foundry in Oregon is not shipping but offering pick up only. This will put a squeeze on the availability of quantities and selection of materials available. If I can acquire both materials, I can quietly work in my isolated studio for months. For another project, travel to NC is being delayed due to the outbreak. While air travel is preferred due to time, it’s likely that a 14-hour drive will be made instead when it does happen due to precautions. With artwork ready to go and a new product launch for wearable art with Gong designs, a Pop Up Show scheduled with all printing ready to go and location secured for April has been canceled. I fear for my retailers and hope they will be able to carry on. The studio continues to operate via phone and email. Could you image this happening 40 years ago? We are blessed to have our computers and the internet available to keep us all connected. Ahhh, but we do need to turn them off now and then, go to the park. Everyone stay home, let’s squash this thing. Wishes for all to stay healthy.
— Nancy Gong, glass artist, Gong Glass Works
Other than not shopping for my own groceries, my life hasn’t changed much. I am retired, with a pension and Social Security, have a car, and just purchased a home, in a small village. The house and yard need care and I needed a job to do from home. I worry about folks in my village, as it is very diverse and many people appear to struggle regularly. I’m looking for a food pantry or other way to help provide food to those who will need that soon. I’ve never been bored or lonely and prefer this lifestyle. More than anything, I’m grateful for all that I have. I wish we all could say that.
Since I and my wife are retired, impact has been minimal. Our cancellation of planned trip to Florida earlier this week seems inconsequential to the impact that has been had on families with children now at home and the (possible/probable) loss of income.
Working from home and converting all classes to online.
Forced change in travel plans. More importantly, given the virus’s 2-7 day latent period, we will only halt the spread by restricting everyone to their home for 2 weeks and closing all businesses. Despite the warnings, the post office, Wegmans, Pittsford Plaza — all filled this morning with people acting as if they were immune to all. Time for government to order home time for 14 days for all but first responders and necessary health care personnel.
—Neil Scheier M.D.
I’m ill with some kind of disease, which could be a cold, flu or COVID-19. My doctor and the county health dept have refused to test me—no contact with a diagnosed case of the virus. All of my friends are sheltering in place, I can’t even go to church, and the streets are empty.
I am retired, so most of the impact has been social. No meetings of garden clubs and discussion groups I belong to, closed movie theaters and restaurants, etc.
I’m retired so it has little impact to date but expect the community to be hard hit. This has the potential to last a significantly long time and not sure public is ready.
Retired. Staying in place. Reduced outside contacts.
I am able to work from home so I’m grateful for that, but the impact on morale and general emotional well-being has been significant, and will only get worse. I have adult children who live outside the home and we are not seeing one another now, which is hard. The isolation is depressing, and the outlook is terrifying. We have enough supplies in our home to get by for another two weeks, so we are avoiding leaving our home for any reason other than for a walk in the park. I hope and pray that the efforts we’re collectively taking now have enough of a positive impact on the catastrophic spread of this virus that we don’t end up in an historic crisis of humanity by summertime.
This crisis has reinforced my existing belief that we are, as a culture, far too focused on external, material interests and this has led to our being significantly unprepared to deal with major disruptions to our lives/lifestyles. I have been working for environmental and social justice my entire adult life and find that the knowledge I’ve gained and experiences I’ve had may have been the best possible preparation for this (and other crises) because my focus remains on human well-being and ensuring that everyone’s basic needs are met, while respecting natural limits and protecting the systems of life, rather than systems of greed and inequity. I have purchased and delivered necessary supplies for more vulnerable folks, shared information through available technology- including both web-based social networks and direct phone calls with a wide range of folks, launched a website to provide space for ideas, resources, and collaboration among change agents, and accelerated movement toward greater self-sufficiency and capacity for community building in my immediate household & neighborhood. What I miss most from my pre-social distancing life is the physical presence of the young people I work with- the laughter, the hugs, the direct connections and ability to observe healing and growth in real time. I am far more concerned about how they are doing and whether they feel safe and supported through this massive shift. Too many of our children and youth were already unable to take having a roof over their head and enough food in the pantry for granted. Too many of our caregivers were already unable to make their income last through any given month. This crisis may finally provide decisive answers to the deep, underlying questions upon which our society has been built. What do we truly value? What are our responsibilities to one another? Who is responsible for protecting the vulnerable? Can we imagine new ways to build the world we want? It is my sincere hope that we will take this opportunity to interrogate these questions individually and collectively. Thank you.
—Sara R. Hughes
I’m retired so it is pretty easy to stay home and not come in contact with others.
The crisis has had an immediate impact on our business as well as deep concerns about the future. We’ve asked our two part-time employees to work offsite for the time being. We are trying to maintain their income levels for as long as we are able. As a good portion of our sales are generated through our participation in art festivals, we anticipate that the COVID-19 crisis will result in at least 4, if not many more, of our scheduled festivals will be cancelled resulting in a significant loss of income for many artists running small businesses. Many of the organizers of the festivals are non-profit organizations who will also suffer greatly.
I am working from home now and avoiding all gatherings.
Working in a senior care community, our entire way of doing business has been challenged / upended/ and redefined. One of our largest challenges to date is not as obvious as one would think (ergo: staffing). Early on our challenge was the exasperating differences in which the public and some of our closest constituents viewed the severity of this crisis and more so the response. Consistency in communication is key.
—Michael E. McRae
I work from home, so not much different there. Impact on daily life is not going to theater, book club, lectures or other public events.
I supply promotional materials to businesses and conferences. Two conferences have cancelled or postponed their event. As many businesses go to a work from home model the need for promotional materials drops significantly. At this point, business is down 30-40%. As the crisis continues i can see a much larger drop.
It has force functioned digital adoption in sharing and video conferencing. 1/3 of my client base has reduced my contract. It is not a good time for business development in my field. Work/life balance completely blurred as I want to keep my kids education on track. There are resources for their learning, it just takes an additional layer of focus and energy.
I am working from home and sheltering in place. I am no longer meeting with friends and family. I am doing a lot of cooking and cleaning.
My clients want articles explaining how their businesses support remote workers. I suspect that next they will want information on managing remote lifestyles. This is worldwide, my clients are software companies in Europe.
I’m working from home with all 3 kids. We trying to keep them busy with a structured agenda every day. We are trying to make the best use of our food to last as long as possible. This will be Day 3 of full lock down (no one has been in public). We see some anxiety in the kids but also excitement of no school and how different this is. I worry about our oldest who is a senior and is missing out on his final high school days.
I work from home, so having the kids here is certainly distracting. That said, there are people in much more dire situations than me, so I feel lucky to be able to distance my family from the virus and still be able to do great work for my clients. We are working on establishing a structure for the kids through various educational apps. I fear the slow corporate response will prolong the crisis and push “the curve” well into the summer.
I’m currently work from home.
—Karla R George
As a semi-retired, self-employed electrician, and already collecting SSI, I am less affected than others, perhaps. But I have decided to not go out for work for the foreseeable future. I am in the process of notifying clients and cancelling or postponing the dozen or so small jobs I had in the pipe. My wife and I have cancelled all social engagements and are pretty much at home full time.
Working remotely for the foreseeable future; child home from a school setting, schooling at home who requires oversight while i work; wife working partially remote and partially in-person due to her work role. We’re all experiencing a little cabin fever, largely driven by our child’s absence of typical daily peer interactions.
We are self-quarantined because we have just returned from London.
I am now working remotely and I am very concerned for my elderly parents, one of whom has severe COPD as well as a 24 year-old daughter who works(ed) for a movie theater. I think this is a good time to think about what is important and what we will be letting go of that maybe we should. I expect shifts in priorities in where we spend our time, energy and money. I see a lot of caring and concern among families and communities. And I have been spending even more time outdoors.
Drastic reduction in income. We’re being extra careful in my house because one of us has lung issues. I miss my friends but have to admit, I’m enjoying my staycation for now.
Professionally, I’m working from home as of 3/17. I’ll have to pop into work for an occasional meeting that doesn’t provide a call-in option (!). I am fortunate that I can do all of my work from home with an internet connection and a phone. The daily camaraderie will be missed, but I’m far more efficient working from home as there are fewer interruptions. It seems as if our lives have become a little smaller, fewer interactions with our friend group, but we are planning a virtual cocktail party this weekend–grab a drink and a bite and pony up to Zoom! We’ll see how it goes.
We are hunkered down and limiting our external movements drastically.
— Bill Wynne
My husband and I, both work for small stone fabrication shop. We are still able to work. My daughter cannot go to preschool, but grandma is watching her at home. My daily life is only affected by the reaction of the masses (grocery stores, news, emails). I stay off Facebook and news (some information get leaked through emails, LinkedIn). My faith helps me to stay positive and calm about this time. I hope that families come closer together, more connected as a result of the lockdown.
Many of my activities have gone online, so I’m not as much at loose ends as I’d feared (hoped? 🙂 ) I’m able to take advantage of more webinars and online classes than I could before. I’m loving this website, put together as support during the pandemic. I use my Facebook page solely to transmit and discuss information, as opposed to sharing personal experiences. Not surprisingly, much of my recent timeline has been devoted to Covid-19 info. Given that Covid-19 info is so much the center of media attention, I am thinking of transitioning to resources for staying emotionally healthy and supporting others during this time. Nearly all of my posts are public. I invite you to visit, “friend” me, share: https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.johnson.cyber.salon
Two kids are now at home, with school cancelled. Our workplace temporarily shut down and we are working at home. We are practicing social distancing measures.
Working from home, wife an I are splitting responsibilities with kids. Postponed vacation. Not too much right now, but I feel in 4 weeks of social distancing, we will start to need more space.
Everything I was working on has shut down indefinitely and no one has any idea how long it will take to restart. My daughter is schooling from home and we are all starting to feel the anxiety of being trapped in our homes without direct contact with the outside world. It’s sinking in how unnerving this all is. Let’s hope what we are doing now prevents a real catastrophe and we can recover quickly.
Balancing work and home life all at home had been challenging for our family. My kids miss their friends and routines and I miss my coworkers and routine! It also worries me that existing inequities in the school systems will be massively reinforced by all of this. While it seemed that the suburbs were standing up their supplementary food services quickly and moving onto academics, our district, RCSD, had a much larger lift to get just the food part up and running. Our academic support so far has been limited, but the teachers and district are trying. I worry about kids who don’t have access to technology (we do thankfully) or help with schoolwork at home. While we are muddling through, for some kids this support is non-existent – not because parents don’t care, but because they are stuck working to attempt to make ends meet. RCSD is giving out paper learning packets at their food locations, but efforts seem doomed to fail without extra support.
Staying home unless can’t avoid going to the store . Wife has asthma since a child and we must be very careful . She is 65 and I am 68.
Working for the local government we had to shut our doors to the public challenging us to find new ways to continue our operations to provide the customer service we always have. Attempting the work from home has been an amazing experience as I have always heard working from home people are more productive. I have experience that it’s true. I was able to complete many tasks without interruptions. Not being to provide face to face customer service has been missed but we have turned it around to make things work and still provide the needs of our residents. Supervising my staff has its challenges but I trust them to do their best in what’s expected of them.
I have been social distancing for about 3 weeks now. Stared before it was called for in this region because I have underlying health issues that could make this virus dangerous for me. This means that I stopped going to church and other activities, like volunteering, before the state called for people to stop.
Our daughter has asked us to help her with childcare beginning next Sunday. We are 73, retired, would very much like to make the trip to Harrisonburg VA to help her, but are concerned about exposing ourselves to the disease by doing so. I am a board member of Dharma Refuge, a local meditation center. We had just begun a capacity building campaign to raise funds to hire our first paid administrator and begin paying our teacher (who has volunteered her time for over 10 years). Rapid growth the past 5 years led to hi stress and burnout for our teacher and volunteers. Already 1 person has had to cancel her pledge because she was laid off at work, and we are not able to gather as a community, so the Board will be looking at ways to deal with this on Friday.
—Jane Ellen Bleeg
Work – not at all. Daily life; unable to attend Lenten religious services, grocery shopping has become rather ridiculous, my exercise routine has changed due to gym closed. Not major, but minor nuances.
Paul Ericson is Rochester Beacon executive editor. Smriti Jacob is managing editor.