As businesses across the lakes area cut hours, restrict services or close their doors altogether to prevent the spread of COVID-19, others provide important services employees must continue to offer.
People still have broken appliances in need of repairs, faulty internet connections that require attention and essential products that must be delivered. In these cases, employees rely on customers being upfront about any potential problem that could lead to more widespread illness.
Yde’s Major Appliance Services is one example, as customers confined to their homes may need quick fixes to stoves, refrigerators or washers and dryers.
Manager Keith Yde said he and his employees are operating with more caution than normal, asking if anyone in a residence is ill or has flu-like symptoms before entering for a repair.
On Thursday, Yde said there was a scheduled repair canceled earlier that day when a homeowner said his wife just returned from traveling and was not feeling well.
“I don’t know to what extent, to what degree, but he was actually in a panic because he said he’s trying to find a way to get his wife into the hospital,” Yde said. “... Because he’s going to quarantine her in her house, we mutually agreed that we would hold off on the repair for the next couple weeks.”
It was only a warranty repair, Yde said, so it was nothing that needed immediate attention.
As calls for service dwindle somewhat, Yde said the business has done more delivery and shipping of parts.
The story is similar at Culligan of Baxter, where doors are closed to the public, though services are still continuing.
With many other businesses also closing their doors, Culligan General Manager Kelly Masberg said the volume of calls and service needs has dwindled some. Even for those who are open, though, many of Culligan’s deliveries now amount to dropping products off outside the door.
But some in-home visits are still necessary. In those times, Masberg said the delivery workers are taking extra precautions.
“Our drivers have to wear gloves, and they have to sanitize and disinfect after every stop, as well as disinfect the product that comes out of the home,” she said.
And like Yde’s, Culligan customers are asked questions about any illnesses or symptoms.
“We’re taking every precautionary measure,” Masberg said.
Keeping people connected
The same goes for CTC, as the company works to meet all the internet needs of business people and students cooped up at home.
“Our industry is kind of an essential service right now for a lot of people with people working from home, for businesses and for students,” Andy Isackson, CTC director of membership operations, said Thursday.
About 75% of the company’s staff is working from home right now, Isackson said, as customer service and help desk representatives can still offer help remotely. Technicians, however, are still making the rounds, doing repairs and installs as needed. But it’s still not quite business as usual.
Before sending out a technician to a home, Isackson said the residents are asked if anyone in the house has traveled recently or if anyone has had flu-like symptoms in the last 48 hours. Those who say all is well will get a healthy technician dispatched to their home.
Many times, technicians are able to work in separate spaces in a house, away from contact with residents.
“And then our technicians have all the necessary cleaning supplies and sanitation gear and everything in their vehicles to make sure that we’re just taking all the necessary precautions,” Isackson said.
CTC’s offices in Brainerd, Baxter and Crosby are closed to the public, but there are bins outside for customers who need to drop off equipment and boxes for those with payments.
And as an extra courtesy for those using more internet right now, Isackson said CTC is offering free increased bandwidth for all its customers for two months. Customers can call and request this service change.
For those new to CTC, the company is waiving some installation fees. And for those who don’t have internet at all, CTC created free public Wi-Fi spots throughout the lakes area, accessible from vehicles.
As of Friday afternoon, four Wi-Fi spots were live: Brainerd Lakes Area Welcome Center, Fort Ripley Town Hall, Mission Town Hall and Design Electrics in Little Falls. Other hotspots are in the works in Brainerd, Aitkin, Motley, Pillager, Little Falls, Outing, Randall, Hillman, Cushing, Browerville and Long Prairie.
A live map of Wi-Fi spots is available at https://tinyurl.com/ufnsac8.
There is no need to leave vehicles or enter any buildings at these sites. Users can search for a network called “CTC WiFi” and access it freely.
“It might not be the perfect situation,” Isackson said, “but at least it’s an option for people.”
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