Dave Hurson sits on the tailgate of his pickup with his dogs waiting for the veterinary assistant to take his Labradors into the Camano Veterinary Clinic for treatment.

“I think it’s a smart way to do business,” Hurson said of the curbside service that has become normal for veterinarians around Washington during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’d much rather be outside in the fresh air than in a cramped waiting room with the potential of being exposed to the virus.”

The Camano Clinic is one of many small businesses and organizations that rose to the challenge of creating safe ways to interact with the public and stay connected under Washington's “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.

Even as some restrictions begin to ease, some changes adopted by shops, services and churches could become permanent. 

Video streaming here to stay

After churches closed their doors due to public gathering restrictions, videos and livestreams of worship services became popular.

Camano Chapel and Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, both of which post videos on their websites, are continuing this service in addition to traditional onsite, live services.  

“The response to our video services when we were closed was so positive,” the Rev. Kris Kramer said. “We plan to continue offering this service while reopening under the state’s guidelines.”

The Rev. Mark Bankson with Our Savior’s Lutheran Church said the congregation has appreciated the effort.

“Many, such as the elderly and those with health concerns, would like the video service to stay,” he said.

Live video connection for medical providers to chat directly with patients has been a vital addition to the health service industry during the pandemic.

In April, Stanwood’s Safe Harbor Free Clinic began offering telehealth virtual visits, which can be done via computer, smartphone or tablet.

“We plan to continue using telehealth as long as we have funding.” Executive Director Sandy Solis said. 

Real estate businesses have also found ways to connect with the public using technology. 

Kerry McGhie, owner and designated broker of John L. Scott Realty of Stanwood and Camano Island, hired a media/technology consultant to help her business stay relevant, adding video tours of listings and surrounding neighborhoods.

“The great news is the virtual tours work-around has been amazing and has actually worked really well,” she said. “People are busy, and a tool that allows clients to get a solid feel for a potential home purchase from their couch is something that just makes sense no matter what restrictions are in place.”

Limiting public access, contact

Returning to business as usual will be easier for some than others.

For places like Stanwood Swim and Fitness, which reopened in mid-June, the number of members in the club is limited. Members need to call ahead to reserve a workout time, owner Jamie Arrants said. The extra procedures could be around a while.

“Additionally, all members need to sign a liability waiver and participate in a brief training about safe practices before they can use the gym,” Arrants said.

Camano Veterinary Clinic closed its waiting room but offers curbside service. That won't change in the foreseeable future, said office manager Heather LaBlanc.

 “I think that people understand that this is a serious situation and we have to act accordingly,” she said.

Many businesses also now look different inside. For example, Loco Billy's Wild Moon Saloon in Stanwood is getting an update with sneeze guards where food is served and sanitizing stations around the club, said owner 

Cookie Spirk.

“We’re also trying to come up with innovative ways to maintain social distancing such as adding a beer garden and an intercom system for ordering food and beverages,” she said.

The business is not scheduled to reopen until the final phase of the governor's plan.

Changes in the way people have worked through the pandemic include more people working from home, boosts in technology investments and implementation of ways to reduce physical contact between workers and customers. 

“All of this adds up to a future with more delivery options and the likelihood that most new consumer-facing businesses will offer a delivery option,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

While some businesses shut their doors, others adapted or contracted and are just now preparing to get back in action. To help businesses restart locally, Stanwood, Snohomish County and Island County are each offering grants for area businesses.

“I believe that many businesses will continue to offer services that work well and help connect with customers, such as the availability of hand sanitizer and masks.” said Elaine Traversi, Stanwood Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “However, I think it will ultimately depend on what their customer base is comfortable with.” 

Jessica McCready, executive director of the Camano Island Chamber of Commerce, believes that businesses' innovations are working well to meet the challenges of the pandemic and are here to stay.

“Many of the changes, like virtual meetings, have increased overall efficiency in how business gets done,” she said. “Plus, customers like the convenience and safety of new services, such as curbside pickup, and now that these options are in place, it makes sense to continue providing them to the public.”

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