How COVID-19 Has Changed Us

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How COVID-19 Has Changed Us

7 Stories of Its Impact

By Krista Martinelli

This month I interviewed three individuals and four business representatives to get a picture of how we have all been impacted by COVID-19. We will start with the individuals: Terri Marshall, our travel writer in New York City; Marty Ross, a resident of Wycliffe Golf & Country Club and Denise Marsh, a first-grade teacher, writer and poet.  Then we will hear from businesses: Janelle and Joel Dowley of Two Men and a Truck®; Erick Leon of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, Dr. Tomer Haik of “The Kids Teeth Doctor” and Steven Kanowitz, VP of Gutterman’s Funeral Homes.

Terri Marshall, Travel Writer

As I write this story approaching the first of June, we have lost over 100,000 American lives to COVID-19.  So I went right to the epicenter of the outbreak and talked with Terri Marshall, our AroundWellington travel writer who lives in New York City. She is currently sheltering at home with her husband Greg Holder, who works for the NYC Subway system.

Terri Marshall-Holder and Greg Holder

Terri tested positive for COVID-19 about a two months ago.  “I had the virus, had a fever and chills for 3 to 5 days and was incredibly lethargic for weeks, but I survived it,” says Terri.  She took the test, which was a swab up one nostril, and waited 8 days before getting the results.  She wasn’t entirely surprised to find out that she had the Coronavirus.  One of the hardest parts of self-quarantining was keeping entirely apart from her husband, splitting the one-bedroom apartment for about three weeks.  Terri was fortunate and although she had a high fever, she never had to go into the hospital and had no underlying breathing issues.

“It’s different for different people,” explains Terri.  “But you do lose your senses of smell and taste. Also, it helps to take in a lot of liquids and to take Tylenol.”  She also recommends that if you’re able to, walk around the house.  And after the self-quarantining period is over, she recommends walking around outside.  Since recovering, she and her husband have done a lot of walking, including hiking local trails.

“In my work as a travel writer, I’ve had to pivot to focus on virtual travel writing and to include other types of writing,” says Terri.  As someone who worked as an estate and trust administrator for approximately 35 years, Terri is considering writing blogs on how to get your estate in order, how to provide for your pets and tax planning.  She’s also focused on fitness just lately in her life and plans to launch a blog called Fit for Traveling.  She’s especially interested in writing about hiking from an older generation’s perspective.  Here’s an article she wrote for us at Around Wellington about planning your travel titled “Dream Today, Travel Tomorrow.”

I asked Terri how her husband Greg’s job at the subway has been impacted. Greg also tested positive for COVID-19, but never suffered from any of the symptoms.  “He’s been working on a subway line that’s not currently running; however, he’s filled in on other subway lines when needed,” says Terri.  Sadly, over 100 subway workers in his union have died since the start of COVID-19.

Another issue that has surfaced with the subway system is finding places for the homeless people to go.  The subway is now closed from 1am to 5am for deep cleaning.  New York City has been working to provide buses to shelters for the homeless, who used to spend their nights riding the subways.

New York City has changed dramatically.  Terri wrote about it in last month’s article for AroundWellington, “New York City’s Epic Nap.” “It’s quieter,” says Terri, “except for the ambulances.” She does feel a resilience on the part of New Yorkers, especially at 7pm every night when people all cheer for the essential workers.  “We’re all in it together, and you can feel it in the air,” says Terri.  She likes that you can whip around town quickly with no traffic, but misses seeing all the diverse faces.

Terri Marshall, as a travel writer, has had four great trips cancelled that she had planned on: a deep sea fishing trip in Clearwater, Florida with the grandkids; a trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana to the Vera Bradley Outlet annual extravaganza; a trip to Puerto Rico for a travel conference and a trip in July to Norway. Plans for other international trips are on hold for now. But as a COVID-19 survivor, she understands the reasoning behind staying put.  So for now she will “dream today, travel tomorrow.”

View from Terri and Greg’s terrace in NYC

Marty Ross, Founder of the Wycliffe Stiffs

As the founder of the Wycliffe Stiffs stickball league, Marty Ross is no stranger to sports.  Before COVID-19, Marty and his wife Harriet played tennis, golf, pickleball, stickball (of course, a Brooklyn tradition) and many other sports.  I asked him how things have changed for him since the start of COVID-19. “It’s to have a routine,” says Marty.  Every other day they ride their bicycles around the two golf courses at Wycliffe Golf and Country Club, logging in from 12 to 15 miles.  And on the non-biking days, they go for long walks.  “Then we have lunch and do afternoon projects,” says Marty, who happens to be one of the most upbeat and positive people around Wellington.  “I’m lucky enough to have a wife who always shares similar interests with me,” says Marty.

Marty and Harriet Ross

He launched the Wycliffe Stiffs 18 years ago.  “Now I finally took the opportunity to go through all the photos and really stop and smell the flowers,” says Marty.

He also had time to reflect on the Wycliffe Stiffs video about the Wycliffe Stiffs that was produced by SharpShooter Marketing Group and AroundWellington.com (see above).  He’s also had time to call old friends, which has been “very therapeutic.”

Stickball card: Marty Ross

Marty and Harriet have been able to play bridge online with another couple and catch up on some Netflix movies.  As far as dinner, Marty explains, “We can order lunch, dinner or groceries to pick up or have delivered, thanks to Wycliffe. It’s been phenomenal.”  He’s quite please with a few restaurants that they have ordered from, including Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, Stonewood Grille and Mississippi Sweets BBQ.

They also improvised when it came to pickleball, using their garbage cans and recycling bins, putting a clothes line in between as “the net.”  “We play after dinner sometimes for 45 minutes,” says Marty, pleased with his driveway pickleball implementation.

Marty and Harriet play pickleball in their driveway at Wycliffe.

Of course, now things have begun to open up in Palm Beach County.  Marty and Harriet are thrilled that they can play golf again, they can play singles tennis, they can swim (with up to 30 people maximum in the Wycliffe pool) and although they have chosen to not dine out yet, they can do curbside pickup at many great local restaurants.

Meanwhile Harriet is the treasurer for Wycliffe Charities.  They raise money for local non-profits, approximately $150,000 per year.  During the past couple weeks, they raised over $15,000 for the Palm Beach Food Bank.  It was done through small donations, where residents could add on a donation to their lunch or dinner order.  “We have to help each other and get through this,” says Marty.  Wycliffe Golf and Country Club also brought 450 meals to local frontline workers at Wellington Regional Medical Center during the pandemic.

Wycliffe Golf & Country Club serving meals to frontline hospital workers

To take extra precautions, Marty and Harriet went in for the COVID-19 test.  “This was a no-charge exam at Village Park in Wellington, and everyone was 10 feet apart,” says Marty. The tests were administered by Premier Family Practice, by appointment.  They experienced a normal test, a quick swab up one nostril, and had their IDs verified.  Premier Family Practice gave out wipes and other amenities.  “It was a very smooth system, and I encourage everyone to do this,” says Marty.

After getting tested, they took a drive over to Stickball Boulevard within Village Park, which was created in 2002.  Marty noticed that the Village of Wellington Parks & Recreation department had added three more signs, “all adding to a nostalgic feeling.” The Village of Wellington has been very proactive about helping these self-proclaimed “geezer jocks” with their pursuit of stickball.  “They gave us two canopies, stadium seating and ice water for our games,” says Marty.

“There can’t be another village in the U.S. so spectacular as Wellington, and Mayor Anne Gerwig is amazing!  There is no bureaucracy,” he concludes.

 

Denise Marsh, 1st Grade Teacher, Writer and Poet

In mid-March of this year, Palm Beach County teachers had to re-invent themselves and the way they teach. First grade teacher at Discovery Key Elementary School Denise Marsh was concerned about how to teach online. “In the very beginning, I was terrified,” she says. “I’m horrible with technology.”  She was also saddened that she happened to be out on Friday, March 13th, the last day of physical classroom time, so she didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to her students.

On the first two days of online teaching, the school principal Dr. Catherine Lewis helped Denise log in to her classroom.  “But after a couple of weeks, I shocked myself. I felt a new found confidence online,” says Denise. She explains that they use Google Meet, and her Wifi in her house is not reliable.  Her students are now trained to wait ten minutes, if they get disconnected.

Denise Marsh, 1st Grade Teacher. “We will learn on the steps.”

On a typical day, they have an online classroom morning meeting from 9am to 9:30am. It’s a “good morning” message and a time for sharing, in answer to the question of the day. “Then we do a group activity – like meditation, or counting by 3’s,” says Denise. She likes to dress up and put on make-up to celebrate the event of seeing her classroom each day. It warms her heart when the students get so excited to see her appear online – “Miss Marsh is on!” they shriek.  She misses seeing them in person, of course, and wrote this poem for her class. So while they are still doing SEL (Social Emotional Learning) online, Denise is heartbroken to not see her first-graders in person.

While sticking to the curriculum and following the teaching standards, Denise, aka “Miss Marsh,” likes to sprinkle in YouTube videos, teach through song, incorporate dance moves and other things that capture her students’ interests like Pokémon and unicorns.  She has discovered some great YouTube videos about how to draw, which all of her students seem to enjoy.

As for reading, the students do 20 minutes of independent reading, 20 minutes of iReady reading and 20 minutes of reading aloud. For writing, they are working on writing complete sentences. Math is a combination of pre-recorded lessons and live lessons. Science and Social Studies tend to include virtual trips, which are popular now, like a trip an aquarium or a trip on board a pirate ship.

Denise Marsh teaches her students online on dress-up day.

One benefit of the parents monitoring their children’s online learning is that “the parents now see what it’s really like, including which students talk too much or have difficulties following the plans.” As a teacher, one of the benefits of online teaching has been having a more flexible schedule. Fortunately for Denise, her son Daniel is 13 years old and can learn very independently in his 7th grade online classes.

Miss Marsh in the classroom.

I asked Denise what she misses the most, since the outbreak of COVID-19.  “I’m an extrovert, so I miss the physical contact.  I like hugs!” She has a history of asthma, so she has to take extra precautions. Also, Denise has trouble breathing with the mask on and looks forward to the day when we can get back to normal.

One silver lining in the pandemic for Denise has been learning how to really cook. Her son Daniel helped her pick out a wok. Every since purchasing the work, Denise has stepped up the cooking, including stir fries, taco nights and generally getting more creative in the kitchen. As a poet, she used to perform her poetry at Open Mic Night at Village Music & Café on Wednesday nights in Wellington.  While waiting for Open Mic Nights to come back, she’s been reading her poetry on Facebook live on Wednesday nights, which has been a great catharsis and form of self-expression. (Read one of her poems). She also has been taking virtual dance lessons with Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Wellington. And last but not least, she’s been singing duets using one of her favorite apps, Smule.

Two Men and a Truck®, Janelle and Joel Dowley

In response to COVID-19, Janelle and Joel Dowley, owners of Two Men and a Truck in Wellington, West Palm Beach and Jupiter locations, been donating some of their trucks and manpower for distributing food to those in need.  Joel explains that he met Deborah Morgan of Palm Beach Harvest about ten years ago at the Wellington Holiday Parade. “She called us and asked if we could help, considering that restaurants were shut down and farms had a lot of surplus food.” The Dowleys have continued to keep paying their employees to make trips to Stuart, the Acreage and Belle Glade and pick up palettes of surplus crops.  They picked up palettes of zucchini, cucumbers and corn, among other vegetables. The food was distributed with help from Palm Beach Harvest, a non-profit food distribution organization.

Joel and Janelle Dowley of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK

Through Palm Beach Harvest and the Palm Beach County Food Bank, they expanded their operations and connected with the owner of the Howley’s Sub-culture chain of restaurants (17 of them) Rodney Mayo. You might remember Rodney Mayo from this earnest plea that he made on behalf of his employees in front of the West Palm Beach City Commission on March 23, 2020 (see the video). Mayo created H3, which stands for Hospitality Helping Hands. Every Friday Howley’s distributes food at 6 – 8 locations, looking out for hospitality and food service workers who have lost their jobs.  The Dowleys of Two Men and a Truck partnered with H3 to bring food to these people in need as well.

Two Men and a Truck partnering with Palm Beach Harvest to bring food to people in need.

They’ve also partnered with the Palm Beach County Food Bank.  “Since the start of COVID-19, we’ve been running approximately 6 trucks each week to distribute food,” says Joel. See our interview with Karen Errin, Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Food Bank.

Janelle and Joel are very happy that they have not had to lay off any of their employees. They were fortunate to get a PPP loan, after about 40 phone calls and many attempts. “Our business is down by 50%,” explains Joel.

Janelle and Joel have always believed in taking care of their employees first to “better serve our customers.” They’ve been able to boost morale with Monday morning meetings and videos from their corporate headquarters each day. And as anyone knows who has met this couple, they are compassionate and caring, going above and beyond for others.

Following CDC guidelines, they take staff temperatures every day. They use masks, gloves, anti-bacterial hand soap, disinfectant spray and disinfect the trucks after each move. “We’ve also been doing virtual estimates to keep things safe,” says Janelle. They’re able to get documents scanned and signed with a no-contact estimate, whatever makes the customer comfortable.

 

“We like to say that we sell boxes,” says Joel, “but we also think outside the box.” For some of their Wellington clients like polo players, they’ve been able to move belongings into storage for them, having no physical contact with the customer.

I asked if there was any silver lining with the current change, due to the pandemic. “It makes us realize we can do a lot of our work from home. We’ve been able to embrace technology,” says Janelle. They’ve found that networking is less costly and takes less time, now that it is all done virtually. They’ve discovered that their salespeople can work from home too if needed, providing flexibility for employees during this time.

 

As for the food distribution, it continues until the end of June. While the local farmers have been so generous, they can’t keep giving away food. But while there’s still a surplus and a distribution plan, Two Men and a Truck will be utilizing their trucks for those in need.

For more information about the organizations, Two Men and a Truck have partnered with, visit:

Palm Beach Harvest – https://www.palmbeachharvest.org/

H3 – Howley’s nonprofit –  https://www.hospitalityhelpinghands.org/

Palm Beach County Food Bank – https://www.pbcfoodbank.org/

To contact Janelle and Joel Dowley at Two Men and a Truck, call (561) 221-0885.

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, Erick Leon

I talked with Erick Leon, General Manager of the Wellington location for Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza about changes since COVID-19 began. “It’s affected everyone – personal and professional,” he says.  He explains that they had to “pause” 15 servers, as well as a few employees from the back of the house. “However, our take-out business has been phenomenal.”  The good news is that almost everyone is back to working. He thanks his staff for being very flexible and willing to work different hours during this time.

Erick Leon of Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza and one of the Delivery Dudes drivers.

Anthony’s is known for their unusual coal fired pizzas and their grilled chicken wings. At the Wellington location on 441, they employ approximately 50 staff members. And there are 60 Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza locations. I asked if the restaurant needed to apply for a PPP loan. “We have very loyal guests and our take-out sales have sustained us,” says Erick.  They didn’t apply for a loan but transformed into a curbside and delivery business during the two months of quarantining in Palm Beach County. Also, they were able to negotiate a reduction in rent with their landlord.

How has the business changed? “This has really opened our eyes. We are re-constructing the whole operations system,” says Erick. “It’s all about complying with guidelines and making guests feel comfortable.” The staff have their temperatures taken every day. They wear masks and gloves. They follow very strict rules on sanitation.

Anthony’s staff taking extra care in cleaning and sanitizing every day.

“In the beginning, I felt very frustrated with not being able to employ everyone,” says Erick. Fortunately, Erick was friends with the General Manager of Total Wine (in the same plaza). Total Wine was able to give some of the Anthony’s employees hours.

Meanwhile, in order to adapt to the changes, Erick was personally working 6 or 7 days a week, often just taking a half day off. “That takes a mental toll,” he says.

“If there’s a silver lining in all this, it just will make us all stronger. I think it’s a different view of things, and now we can do things better than before,” says Erick. They have 4 outdoor tables for dining.  They have 12 tables inside, all six feet apart.

I asked what his personal favorite thing on the menu at Anthony’s is. “The square margherita pizza with pepperoni, garlic and basil.  And of course, the baked wings with onions.” He explained that they are working from a limited menu now, but all the favorites are still listed.

On a positive note, on the previous weekend Anthony’s sold 3500 wings and 600 meatball orders. “We want to remind everyone that we do delivery, curbside pick-up, socially distanced dining and you can pay online,” says Erick.

Anthony’s donated 10,000 pizzas to FEEDING FLORIDA during this time of COVID-19, and the Wellington location donated locally to nurses and doctors at Wellington Regional Medical Center and JFK Hospital.

Anthony’s providing meals for local first responders.

To order from Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, call (561) 615-1255.

 

The Kids Teeth Doctor, Dr. Tomer Haik

One place where there’s no getting around human contact is the dentist office.  Dr. Haik is known for having a great rapport with the children who come in for dental care. I asked Dr. Tomer Haik, located in Palomino Park in Wellington, about his experience during COVID-19. First off, he told me that their office was closed from March 20 to May 11th, based on the Florida mandate which came from Governor DeSantis, with the exception of emergency care. Now they are back in the office with heightened safety precautions, but they have a schedule that is backlogged by six weeks.

Dr. Tomer Haik, “the Kids Teeth Doctor”

“It has been an extremely difficult and stressful time,” says Dr. Haik.  “It affected the livelihood of our entire staff and applying for financial assistance was no easy feat either. My daily routine was completely thrown off and what’s more difficult is that I felt that I could not be as productive as I should be!”

Now Dr. Haik and his staff have adapted to new safety precautions, including taking the temperature and pulse oximeter readings of every staff member every morning. As patients are waiting for their appointment, they check in from their cars and wait to be called to come upstairs when their appointment is about to begin.  This way they have no one in the waiting room.  “We take the temperature and pulse oximeter of every patient and family member who comes in,” says Dr. Haik, as well as requiring everyone to wear face masks in the office, unless, of course, if you are getting your teeth checked.  He adds that they are sterilizing and cleaning in accord with CDC standards, “taking the utmost care, which has been our standard of care since day one, way before Corona.”  However, now they have additional PPE gear to wear, including gowns, face masks and face shields.  With the increased cost of PPE, and the increased gear needed, the expense to their daily routine has drastically increased. Recently Dental Organizations have approved billing insurance and patients for the increased cost of PPE, which Dr. Haik says he will try to hold off passing this expense to our patients as long as possible.

Disruption to routine has not been limited to Dr. Haik only. One of the downfalls of kids not being in a structured daily routine, he has found, is that their dental hygiene falls by the wayside. They have relaxed their routines too much, not brushing and flossing as much during this time.

One silver lining for Dr. Haik has been spending more time at home with his family, including his wife and four kids. “I’ve participated in my kids’ schooling,” he explains. While the older two kids were more independent, the younger two kids needed closer attention with their school work.

“Also, I’ve had the opportunity to cook more often with my family and enjoy more meals together during the week,” he says.  Their family even held a couple of “Chopped” competitions – competing to produce the best dinner and then the best dessert. “You’ve got to stay creative in these times,” says Dr. Haik.

His advice is for everyone to stay diligent and cautious and remember that even if you are wearing a mask during the day, you still have to brush your teeth, and floss!

For more information, visit the website https://www.drhaik.com/

Gutterman’s Funeral Homes, Steve Kanowitz, VP

Perhaps the most drastically affected business during COVID-19 has been funeral homes. I talked to Steven Kanowitz, VP of Gutterman’s Funeral Homes.  With one location in Boca Raton and two in Long Island, NY, (Woodbury and Rockville Centre) – Gutterman’s has been extremely busy.  Sadly, the volume of funerals has kept Gutterman’s staff working seven days a week in New York.  And the whole ritual of the funeral service has been forced to change too.

“COVID-19 has affected all of us in this industry,” says Steven. “Many of our staff members have worked 10 to 14 hours a day. From 2 weeks to one month at a time without a day off. There’s a lot of stress.” It has been non-stop.

He also commented on the pain of not being able to visit a loved one in the hospital during this time.  That’s added to the family’s stress level.

As for the funeral service, “Circumstances have not allowed it to be a chapel service.” The norm today is a graveside service only. Cemetery rules allow up to 10 family members. The family gathers outside the cemetery office; the funeral director, rabbi, the foreman and the hearse will proceed to the graveside.  Once the casket is placed into the grave, the cemetery staff leaves. The rabbi will remain at the grave site.  The funeral director will then gather the family and lead them to the grave site to start the funeral service.

Rabbis today have the ability to have a Zoom service at the grave site. And other family members and friends can participate. At the conclusion of the service, there will be shovels provided to the family, so that they can place Earth into the grave, part of the Jewish tradition.

Everyone is staying 6 feet or more apart at the burial site. “With each burial, we’ve included a small bag of Israeli Earth,” says Steven. Gutterman’s Jewish Funeral Homes has gone above and beyond to make a difference with special additions like this, even though there are so many restrictions during this time. This is symbolic and connects the ceremony to burials in Israel.

Steven Kanowitz has been in the funeral home business since 1960; he started out at an early age. And Gutterman’s has been in business since 1892. “But I’ve never experienced anything like this.  This is devastating to everyone involved,” he says.

Everything is taking longer these days, after a death in the family.  It’s taking four to five weeks before a cremation can happen.  The funeral arrangements have taken place in a conference room in the past, usually a one-hour face-to-face meeting. Now it takes approximately 3 hours with discussion by phone and documents being signed via computer. Almost everything is done by phone now, even the selection of caskets.

“It’s hard getting over the sadness of this whole situation.  I know a lot of the people who have lost their family members.  Nobody deserves this,” says Steven. “This will affect many generations of people. The Coronavirus has left its mark on us.”

When the virus began, approximately 75% of the deaths in New York were due to the Coronavirus.  Today only 10% of the deaths are caused by the virus.

Bonnie and Steven Kanowitz

Meanwhile, Steven and his wife Bonnie are involved in many non-profit organizations and fundraisers. Steven looks forward to getting back to charity events, especially golf fundraising events which he has often spearheaded.

“We’ve done what had to be done,” he says. Gutterman’s Funeral Homes gets positive letters and phone calls frequently for their helpful teamwork in recognizing lives well-lived. They conduct the memorial services with the utmost care. “All of my staff go above and beyond the call of duty,” he says.

You can reach the Gutterman-Warheit Memorial Chapel at (800) 992-9262. They are located at 7240 N Federal Hwy, Boca Raton, FL 33487 and have two other locations in New York.