Like so many others, my small business shut its doors on March 16, 2020, and has yet to reopen. The two blurry months that followed have been full of uncertainty, desperate searches for guidance from the state, application after application for loans and grants, hourly checking of bank accounts looking for said grants and loans, ordering protective equipment, and basically just hanging on.
My business, two acupuncture practices with 9 employees, has not yet been given the go-ahead to reopen, but we seem to be getting closer.
As I sit in the empty and sanitized office, I wonder- is Vermont ready to be reopening small businesses?
The front doors to both of my practices still read, ”We will be closed for at least two weeks” as I had no idea how long the closure would be at the time. As I read this signage now, I laugh at how far off I was in my naive optimism.
As the weeks went by, my denial of the gravity of this situation eroded, and waves of acceptance began… and receded… and began again.
First, I had to wrap my head around the thought of closing my business which supports my family, nine people and their families, and the 250 people per week that benefit from our care. What would happen to my patients trying to get pregnant, the ones in severe pain, the ones using acupuncture to avoid drugs and alcohol, the ones that I know need the connection and touch and do not have it otherwise? Patients pop into my mind and heart daily, and all I could do is send thoughts of health and healing. I think I benefited from these moments of love the most.
The next phase of acceptance for me, was realizing that it was going to take much longer than two weeks for reopening. That’s when my panic about finances really kicked in.
Overhead on two 2,000 square foot clinics is significant, and even with most of my staff safely on unemployment, there were still a lot of minuses happening on the bank ledger and no pluses. Thankfully, I was able to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program loan, but not without feeling like I was in a race with every other business owner in the country, uploading and correcting missing forms and bank confusion before it was accepted. As for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), I haven’t seen any of that yet, but rumor has it that after applying, a fairy godmother-like occurrence happens and POOF one day the money just appears in the bank account.
I’m hopeful I’ve been good this year and magic comes down my chimney and straight into my bank account soon.
I began seeing my colleagues online talk about the use of face masks, shields, and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and I entered the next phase of acceptance- understanding that when we return to work, it will look very different. For the last few weeks, I have invested in all the disinfectants and PPE I could find, and while it was not seamless to be allowed to purchase these items, we got them. My checklist is long and hopefully complete. I’ve followed CDC Guidelines and VT ACCD Guidelines to compile a Safety Manual- and in addition to being a business owner, boss, and service provider, I’m our team’s new Safety Manager!
- One patient at a time
- Reduced patient traffic
- No waiting area
- Hand sanitizer available everywhere
- Plexiglass sneeze guard at checkout
- HEPA air filter circulating air
- A diffuser of antiviral essential oils
- N95 masks for providers
- Surgical masks for staff and patients
- Face shields for providers
- All staff wearing scrubs to work
- Screening patients before appointments for exposure
- Available if needed- no contact thermometers, pulse oximeters, blood pressure cuffs
- Fully stocked inventory of antiviral supplements and herbs
- Sanitizing everything throughout the day, and after each patient! Door knobs, bathrooms, top to bottom, and anything touched!
But is it enough?
I don’t know.
Where’s the checklist that helps me determine if I’m ready to hear the waves of emotional trauma from patients? Or the list to be sure I use my PPP correctly to both not run out of it before my practice is back on its feet and that I get the loan forgiven? How do I know I’ve done enough to assure the safety of my staff and my patients to prepare for reopening my small business?
As we enter our new world, how do we return with modifications? I can’t home school my children while I’m at work, and I’m not sure if I will send them to camp as planned this summer. Parents are the ultimate balancers, and though we might not be able to picture exactly how we will balance our work and children this summer and maybe fall, we will figure it out.
So, am I ready for reopening my small business?
Yes. I find my confidence about reopening my small business when I reflect on all we’ve done above and beyond safety requirements and my knowledge that our patients are calling hourly to get appointments to return to care. Their readiness helps me be ready. There will be more phases to ride but I know we’ll get through this together.
My heart goes out to us all, business owners re-starting, patrons braving new rules, and all the children trusting us to figure this out.