Today marks the end of the second full week of shelter-in-place orders in Ohio, and three weeks the announcement that schools were shutting down. I wanted to share an update with my clients as everyone adapts to business-not-as-usual.

Practically speaking, it may take a little longer for me to return emails. Phone calls may get interrupted by little voices demanding more snacks. Daycare and school are closed, everyone who is not an essential worker has been ordered to shelter in place, and my husband and I are alternating work hours with parenting throughout the days and weeks. This isn’t easy. It isn’t polished. And it isn’t going to change for a while. I appreciate your patience–it certainly exceeds that of my two- and four-year-old. 🙂

These inconveniences, while not great for maintaining customer service as a small business owner, are trivial compared to the uniquely scary circumstances we find ourselves in as a global community.

I want to share what’s happening in my state since many of you hail from outside of Ohio. With a country as large and diverse as ours, it can feel like we are experiencing entirely separate crises. But the public health officials in my state have brought clarity to the dire circumstance we find ourselves in, and that many other states will likely encounter in the coming weeks and months.

Since yesterday, 81 people have died from the more than confirmed 2,900 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ohio. These numbers rise each day and will continue to do so. The virus is hurting people of all ages, with and without underlying conditions. It spreads without symptoms for weeks. It’s insidious.

Our governor and director of public health estimate that at its peak in a few weeks, we could see up to 10,000 new cases a day in our state alone. The virus is outpacing our capacity for testing, for PPE supplies, for medical equipment, hospital beds, health care workers, and even the coroners and end-of-life professionals who will handle the increasing number of deaths, according to yesterday’s press conference.

While our public health teams, manufacturers and hospitals are working hard to scale up to accommodate this, places like New York are already seeing the devastating effect of not having enough space, equipment, supplies and workforce to treat patients.

Every non-essential doctor’s visit, trip to the store or in-office meeting puts more strain on this ill-equipped response.

Please stay home.

I say this all to contextualize the situation we find ourselves in. Working at home is hard. My responsiveness and focus will inevitably suffer, though I will do what I can to mitigate any effects on my clients’ business.

But I wouldn’t for one second trade public safety for productivity right now.

For all of us who can, staying at home is a worthy sacrifice to help reduce the ultimate impact of this deadly pandemic. The fact is, most of my clients work in marketing and communications. We can do this work from anywhere–maybe not to the exact degree of finesse or frequency as in normal circumstances, but these are far from normal circumstances.

Whether shelter-in-place has come to your community yet or not, staying home is not an overreaction. I urge you to consider it if you’re able.

How will you look when this is all over?

Because I’m in the business of communications consulting, I want to also touch on the implications your decisions today will have on your long-term brand equity.

At its core, the decision to prioritize your teams’ safety is one of utmost importance to public health. As with so many decisions facing organizational leaders in this crisis, it’s also a matter of smart public relations.

It’s setting a good example for your customers, clients and colleagues. When you are a leader, taking this matter seriously tells those who look to you for leadership to take it seriously, too. We can already see the devastating effects that not taking COVID-19 seriously is having on communities.

When this crisis ends, the organizations that prioritized the safety of their employees and customers above their business interests will emerge with brand equity that will help them rebuild any losses they may suffer. Those organizations that downplay the seriousness of COVID-19 will be remembered as reckless and untrustworthy.

It is my sincere hope that all my clients are taking this seriously–that you are reading this message from home, perhaps also surrounded by the noise and chaos, strangeness and loneliness of sheltering in place, but with the understanding that you are doing so to protect your loved ones and your broader community.

As I’ve said from the day I launched Collective Reach, you may be working solo, but we’re all in this together.

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