MACC News: Meeting the Challenges of COVID-19: MACC Members Reflect on Their Experiences of the Past Year

Meeting the Challenges of COVID-19: MACC Members Reflect on Their Experiences of the Past Year



Meeting the Challenges of COVID-19:  MACC Members Reflect on Their Experiences of the Past Year

It’s been over a year since COVID-19 became a global pandemic and shut down our world. No one knew then how profoundly it would change nearly all aspects of our lives.

While safety protocols, CDC guidelines, and virtual communications remain an essential part of our daily existence, the initial fears and uncertainty surrounding the pandemic have given way to action, renewal and recovery among our members.

Read on and discover how the pandemic has affected our MACC contractors, distributors and manufacturers as they continue to meet the challenges of a new business environment.

“I remember that it all happened so quickly.  Our Friday meeting was lighthearted … the following Tuesday things turned a bit more serious … and by Wednesday the first cancellations came in.  And they just kept coming.”

 Stu Ellert, Comfort Tech Mechanical

“The immediate days following were filled with panic.  How much money do we have on hand? How much will we need? What can we cut out immediately to reduce costs?  What can we do to delay payments we need to make?  Who can we bill/collect from?  The most important question we tried to answer was… how long can we survive with nothing (or very little) coming in? In addition, there was panic surrounding hand sanitizers, gloves and masks.  PPE was hard to come by.

“Obviously it was huge relief when talk of the PPP and EIDL loans came out, followed again by the panic of getting all of the information together to apply for it, as well as the rush to try to be one of the first to apply.  Very little was told to us about the PPP loans.  It seemed like the only advice was to get the application in as fast as possible.  Again, obvious relief once that was approved and funded. 

“When things started to reopen in June, business picked up and it was mayhem.  Jobs that had been interrupted expected us to be back on site.  Jobs that would have started April and May were now ready to start as well and all of the maintenances and start-ups that were not done in April/May were now being scheduled as well.  Add to that the very hot summer that we had, and business was definitely booming. 

“We have noticed an increased amount of calls this March and April for maintenance as people who have been out of state for a year are now returning back to their NYC apartments.  As more and more people get vaccinated, we believe business will be back to normal this summer and moving forward!”

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 “When I couldn’t taste or smell the chicken I was cooking, I knew something was definitely wrong!”

 Jimmy Moyen, First Choice Mechanical

 I actually tested positive in February of 2021 … just a few months ago. I had flu-like symptoms …slight fever … and couldn’t smell or taste anything.  Thank goodness I recovered and returned to work after quarantining for 14 days.

 “In the early months of the pandemic, we were forced to shut down and reflect on what was going on. At that time, I was involved in two jobs that were deemed essential – Mount Sinai Nursing School and an affordable housing project.  So once the city reopened, I had work.

“About a month and a half after the pandemic struck, we were back. When we reopened, not everyone came back, which included our administrative staff. Business slowed and as a result, I had to cut back on office staff.

“Toward the late summer, during the slowdown, we were able to bid on larger projects which we won and began working on in late fall. Both in the field and in the office, we enforce and follow all CDC regulations …  sign-in sheets, temperature readings with our wall-mounted temperature sensor, sign-ins and sign-out times and more.  

“I see more and more customers getting involved in the concept of air quality – anything that filters the air.  I think by the end of July, this will be nearly over and we will reach that ‘herd immunity’ people are discussing.”

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“In the early months of the pandemic, and following the shutdown, most everything came to a halt.  There was uncertainty with the customers as well as with my employees.”

 James Padavan Air Design Inc.

“Several employees did not want to provide services to customers for fear of contracting the virus … and most customers did not want us in their homes.  We had less customers and less employees willing to work. We took care of only emergency service needs. We did jobs that could be done with less staff.

“We had to cut back for a brief period but when work started to flow, we were able to have everyone back who was willing to work. We had informational meetings through ZOOM or similar platforms to keep everyone abreast of what was going on.  We texted, FaceTimed and used emails a lot more.  I wanted to keep everyone as informed as possible if for nothing else, as a comfort that we are all in this together.

“Hand sanitizers were given to each employee, masks and sanitizer placed on the trucks, offices wiped down regularly, and records of ‘no temperature’ before entering the office or a customer’s home.  We now use a software to comply before entering work.

“We did well for quite some time, no one testing positive.  Upon having the first case, they were instructed to stay home and we advised anyone who may have been in contact with them.  We continued to follow the state mandated pay for those employees and utilized the PPP program as well.

“As spring became summer, with protocols in place, customers did not want to be uncomfortable in their homes and opted to allow us to work.  Especially since there was more indoor time for people and they knew that their homes would be more frequently occupied with people working from home. The need for improvements became essential. The pandemic has brought attention to items such as air ventilation, purification and overall levels of comfort with more time spent more indoors.

“People are a lot more flexible than in the beginning of the pandemic now that they have a better understanding of what it’s all about.  They still ask about our procedures on following certain protocols for the most part, but there are those that are not as adherent.  We still follow protocols regardless of their comfort levels.”

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“Many of our employees, including myself, were frightened and hesitant about returning to working in Manhattan. Educating our employees was essential to alleviate some of the fear, but ultimately once we decided to reopen the Manhattan division all of our employees returned.” 

 Steve Palone, Palone Bros.

Palone Bros. Manhattan department was completely closed for two months. Luckily, our Brooklyn service and installation divisions were in full operation even in the first months of the pandemic. We were thorough in advising our employees about safety and preventive practices that can reduce the spread of the virus (wearing a mask at all times, regularly sanitizing or washing hands, and using objects/elbows to click any buttons).

In the early days, we had a lot of inquiries about air purification and filtration. We did -- and still are -- performing a lot of work to improve the IAQ of our customers. We also had a lot of service calls (no cooling) over the summer and didn't see a big slow down with service work. Even our installation departments were very busy throughout the early months, as many people were now behind schedule and eager to get their construction projects back on track. We were able to maintain a full staff.

 “We provide PPE for all of our employees and we thoroughly trained all employees on safety practices that would minimize their chances of being exposed to the virus, and we also require our technicians to wear masks at all times while on site.  We did have employees come down with COVID and it was very scary at first. It took a lot of time, but after collecting all the necessary data from the NYC Department of Health and CDC, we were able to get all employees to return to work as specified by the laws in place.  For now, we are strongly encouraging vaccinations and we might change this in the future to be a requirement. 

“Our service divisions saw a significant improvement during the fall of 2020. As the hot weather is upon us, we see a huge difference between now and the first few months of the pandemic Our installation division is definitely slowing down now that existing projects are coming to a close. Our real estate management clients have been greatly affected with low occupancy, so their rental income has declined and, in turn, so has their build-outs.

“I think that this year will be very different for our service division and installation division. I predict that our service division will be almost back to normal, as many residents are returning to Manhattan. On the other hand, I believe that our installation division will slow down as many commercial buildings have low occupancy and companies are getting used to working from home and saving the money and time associated with an in-person office.”

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“We focused on new ways to bring in sales and new products and improve our operations. We saw an uptick in certain customers, mainly in the refrigeration market.”

 Jason Staiano, National Compressor Exchange

The shutdowns in the early months of the pandemic definitely affected sales. At the beginning, until we had a better understanding of the virus and what was going on, there was a fear factor among people, from customers to employees. Virtual communications became commonplace. We still conduct our meetings with customers and vendors are over the phone or through zoom 

We were fortunate to be able to maintain a full staff and by making sure employees kept to a certain distance, wore masks and disinfected regularly, we did not have any large outbreaks.


We are not taking a stance on vaccinations. If an employee wants to get the vaccine then that’s great. So far, it seems many of our staff have received the vaccine or are scheduled to get it.  


Last spring was definitely the biggest slow down for us, but a year later the future looks optimistic among many of our customers. Stocking orders among our distributors are up, which was not the case a year ago. I tend to be optimistic for the future.  I believe we are off to a good start and I’m looking forward to the year ahead.  Only time will tell.

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“Beyond coils, there was great focus placed on adapting HVAC systems to improve indoor air quality, in an effort to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19. We learned a lot from industry partners and worked to share this new knowledge directly with our customers, as well as on our blog.”

 Kimberley Stephens, Nationwide Coils

Under FDA guidelines, we were classified as an essential business and we continued to serve our customers, many also deemed essential businesses. Hospitals, in particular, which were on the frontlines of the crisis, relied on us to help support their indoor climate control needs. 

Although business did slow down compared to those months in 2019, we were fortunate that production never ceased and we continued to run at full capacity throughout the crisis. Although we tightened up corporate spending and employee allowances, we were able to maintain a full staff. 

There have been some positive cases of COVID-19 and those employees quarantined per CDC guidelines. It did not affect operations and we weathered the storm as a team.

Very early in 2021, we did not see a significant improvement in business but remained status quo. The mid-February storm that struck the central U.S. and Texas particularly hard, has escalated business significantly. 

Being in business for almost two decades now, we’ve learned to accept the highs with lows. With vaccinations being rolled out, we are hopefully in the home stretch. 

Fortunately, the year ahead is looking bright for Nationwide Coils. We’ve taken on some larger contracts, increasing staff, and are excited to be moving our NY headquarters to larger space.

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“Right at the start, New York City shut down and work turned off like a faucet.  Phones stopped ringing and it was questionable as to who was still open, what buildings were occupied and who was working.  While we still invoiced monthly service contracts, we did not know who was there to pay them.”

 Scott Berger, Arista Air Conditioning

“About a month and a half later, we were back. We furloughed about 80% of company for the first months.  By the end of May, we started bringing people back and it took until July to get everyone back to full employment.

“The ways in which we have been able to be a resource has shifted.  In the beginning it was all about cleaning surface. After a full year it is now clearly understood that COVID-19 is spread through the air.  Air conditioning, heating and ventilation all play a big role.

“While the past year has been difficult, there are a number of programs that have helped us get through this. In January, the New York State ‘Shared Work Program’ has allowed me to have staff work three to four days a week, and still qualify for a percentage of payments from state unemployment as well as the $300 weekly federal unemployment.  Many are still not back to full salary, but this program has definitely removed some of the pain. It’s really helped us match our costs to our revenues. 

“We are trending better from a business standpoint and expect pent up demand to increase business by this summer. This still does not translate to full volume as occupancy remains. Retail, restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms have all been greatly impacted.

“While our team has been impacted by the virus, the vast majority of contact has been exposure in their personal lives, that then creates the need to quarantine according to CDC regulations. Many friends have shared similar challenges. We’re fortunate that our staff has been able to work safely throughout the year.

“Pandemic fatigue is real and understandable. The reality is that in the NY area there is still a high level of cases. The challenge is to support your team who are tired of the constraints of the pandemic and continue to promote the safety practices that we know work.”

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All of us at MACC would like to thank our members for sharing their stories and experiences, past and present.  We join together in expressing our hopes and expectations for a successful year, a bright future -- and the end to the COVID-19 pandemic!