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COVID: Impact of virus touches all

A year ago everything changed when COVID-19 became a daily part of life.

In the first week of March 2020, seven people had been tested but Nevada had yet to have a confirmed case of the coronavirus. Fifteen states had reported 120 cases and nine people had died. Within days, two cases were confirmed in Clark County and before the end of the month, there was at least one man in Boulder City who had the virus.

A state of emergency was declared by Gov. Steve Sisolak and counties and cities across the state followed suit. Boulder City canceled all of its meetings and workshops as well as limited access to public facilities.

On March 15, Sisolak ordered schools to close until at least April 6. Two days later casinos, restaurants, bars and other nonessential businesses closed for 30 days. Streets and sidewalks emptied.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, graduations and community events were canceled, masks became the norm and people were forced to stay at home. Birthdays were celebrated with car parades and people looked to parks and outdoor activities as a way to escape the solitude of confinement at home.

A year later, nearly 300,000 cases have been confirmed in the state and more than 5,000 people have died. But, things are starting to return to normal and vaccines for the virus are being administered. It has been a journey for the community and its residents. From city meetings, to the way businesses operate and from how children attend classes, to finding ways to help those struggling, the past 365 days have brought many changes. Here, is a glimpse into the effects COVID-19 has had on Boulder City.

Boulder City

When the pandemic started, the city declared a state of emergency, temporarily canceled all City Council and commission meetings and shut down public access to municipal buildings. Staff quickly set up an emergency operations center and began dispensing information to the community.

“City staff stepped up to respond to this crisis and I am very appreciative of their dedication and hard work over the past year,” said Acting City Manager Michael Mays. “In addition to taking on additional responsibilities to respond to the crisis, they maintained the level of service to our customers, the citizens and businesses of our community. In addition, the citizens of our community responded to the crisis in a big way, neighbor helping neighbor, which reminds us of the strong community spirit in Boulder City and what makes the community so special.”

City staff coordinated donations for people, had volunteers call all residences in town to check on residents’ well-being, moved all meetings online with real-time public comments, did COVID-19 testing, set up vaccination clinics and dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars in CARES Act money to local businesses and nonprofits.

Boulder City Hospital

Naturally at the center of the health care crisis, staff at the local hospital worked diligently to provide emergency care, carside and telemedicine visits, testing and vaccination clinics.

“From (personal protective equipment) needs, sanitizer and mask mandates, and check-in protocols to the formation of a COVID-19 Infection Control task force, Boulder City Hospital implemented standard operating procedures to battle the increase in the positivity rates of the coronavirus while ensuring the safety of patients, visitors and staff,” said CEO Tom Maher.

As the need for medical services increased, funds for the nonprofit were jeopardized when it’s major fundraising events, Art in the Park and Heart of the Community gala, were canceled. Maher said the hospital was able to take advantage of the Small Business Administration Payroll Protection Program, other grants and federal stimulus funds available under the CARES Act.

“These funds were essential in maintaining the hospital’s financial viability during the pandemic as patient revenue decreased significantly and state restrictions prohibited the foundation’s major fundraising.”

Maher said they will “repay the required portion when due.”

“This month, we are looking back on 12 months of management and staff commitment coupled with community engagement, and we are tremendously proud of our staff and their ability to adapt and meet the challenges brought about by the pandemic,” he said.

Boulder Dam Brewing Co.

“We are decently busy every day,” said Todd Cook, owner of Boulder Dam Brewing Co.

Cook said it was a different story when the pandemic restrictions started, and they couldn’t have dine-in customers for two months.

“We were forced to lay off the entire staff. … I didn’t take pay for that two months,” he said. “I had to go back to working six days a week.”

Cook said he was able to offer to-go orders and curbside service by enlisting the help of three family members and friends during that time and even though it was a struggle, there were some good things that happened.

“It was really awesome during those two months to see so many regulars … get beer and food and go sit in the park … or in their office,” he said. “That was really uplifting to see that.”

When customers could dine in at restaurants again, Cook said he was able to bring back eight employees and has continued to hire more.

“Still today, it’s only half as many staff as there were. … But it’s exciting,” he said.

Cook praised his staff and customers as the reason he is able to keep Boulder Dam Brewing Co. open.

“Our staff is just great,” he said. “The customers did not stop coming in. … You don’t stay open if you don’t have customers.”

He said he is looking forward to being able to host events again so they can celebrate and enjoy life more.

Southwest Diner

Southwest Diner has faced its share of struggles during the past year, but owner Cindy Ford is staying hopeful for the future.

“I see a light at the end of the tunnel and I am looking ahead,” she said. “I’m trying not to look back. I’m trying to stay positive.”

Ford tried different things so she could stay open but she had to close her restaurant several times because of dine-in restrictions.

“We tried selling groceries. … I could get certain things that grocery stores couldn’t,” she said.

Now that it’s back open, Ford has reduced the number of tables to accommodate the 35 percent capacity limit and said she is looking forward to that number increasing.

Ford is still offering take-out and selling cocktails to go.

“I would like to continue cocktails to go if we’re allowed to continue it,” she said.

St. Andrew Catholic Community

“From the beginning of the pandemic, when restrictions were put in place, we were determined to look for new ways to continue to minister to members of our community,” said the Rev. Ron Zanoni.

Like other churches, Zanoni said they began recording their Sunday Mass and then posting it online. When they were able to have limited attendance, he said they started live streaming one of their Sunday services. The church also created a phone ministry team to reach out to parishioners and maintain a sense of community.

“As Christians, we are people of faith and hope, and we are called to pattern our lives in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,” he said. “So, we see the promise of new life through death, and growth through suffering. This is first and foremost how we are getting through this pandemic. We find hope and strength in God’s love, working through one another.”

Zanoni said because of adapting in the pandemic, he and the parishioners have learned some good things in the midst of the difficulties.

“Most of all, I think we have a new appreciation of the importance of the sacraments we celebrate, and the strength we draw from the community itself,” he said. “I am confident we will continue to see good fruit from this past year of challenge, in the days and years to come.”

Christian Center Church

The Rev. Deborah Downs said Christian Center Church has had to grow outside of its building.

“The pandemic has brought people’s need for community to the forefront and now they crave it in a way they didn’t realize previously. … (A)ll churches, are in a unique position to reach a new group of people. It will rely entirely on our ability to adapt quickly and really focus on intentional connections. … In a nutshell, we’ve had to grow way beyond the four walls of our sanctuaries in order to dig deep into the community.”

She said they’ve also had to focus more on one-on-one communication and building their online presence.

“I rely a lot more on one-on-one connections with people and spend a good chunk of my week meeting and connecting with people at a rate I wasn’t before. … People have realized how shallow their relationships may have been before and are in no mood for nonsense and superficiality, especially from the church, and are looking for depth and growth,” she said. “After a year of not being able to rely on people seeking us out, we’ve had to actively pursue them.”

Boulder City High School

For nearly a year the high school sat void of its students and most of its teachers, as they taught and learned from their homes. Many of the usual year-end activities — like prom and graduation — were canceled.

Now, students are less than two weeks away from coming back to campus two days a week.

Principal Amy Wagner said she was “heartbroken” when she found out students would not be returning for the end of the 2019-2020 school year but is excited to have them on campus again, albeit in a different format than before under a hybrid instructional model.

“We have had to adapt our schedule from teaching six classes a day to only three classes a day in a hybrid block format,” she said. “Teachers will be teaching students in front of them and students online simultaneously while in a 100-minute block class. This is something they have not done before. … We have rearranged our classrooms to ensure social distancing of 6 feet between students and our teachers.”

Wagner also said students now have to bring water bottles because the drinking fountains are closed, and they won’t eat lunch in the cafeteria.

“Instead, they will grab a lunch to go when they are dismissed from school at 11:30 each day,” she said. “We have removed our group seating in the hallways and office areas. Hand sanitizer stations are located throughout our building. A sick room area was identified as an area for students with possible COVID-19 symptoms in addition to our health office. Additionally, we are adapting to wearing masks while in the building teaching and working each day. Being flexible and adaptable is a must during this time.”

Wagner said she has missed having students on campus.

I have said from Day One, our mission remains the same whether students or staff are in our building or not,” she said. “Grounded by our rich history, we embrace tradition, family, community, relationships, scholarship and excellence in inspiring and preparing our students for tomorrow. Through this challenging time, I felt that it was important to remain positive and connect with students in any way possible.”

Auto Specialists

“Our business financials didn’t change, which is kind of amazing, but our practices have changed,” said Lee Hagen, who co-owns the auto repair business on Juniper Street with her husband, Paul Hagen. “We are so blessed and so grateful.”

As an essential service provider, the company has been able to remain open throughout the pandemic, although Lee Hagen admits the first few months were fairly scary as their business dropped significantly.

Since then, they have worked to operate as normally as possible while taking extra precautions to keep employees and customers safe, she said. This includes adding pick-up and delivery service at customers’ homes, allowing more payments by telephone and following COVID protocols regarding sanitizing, mask wearing and social distancing.

She said they have tried to eliminate the need for people to sit at the shop and wait for repairs to be done. And for those that do need to visit, they installed plexiglass partitions and removed items such as magazines, candy dishes and coffee in the waiting area to prevent potential spread of the virus.

Because of the volume of traffic at the shop, Lee Hagen said they were visited frequently by Boulder City Police Department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ensure they were adhering to COVID guidelines.

“It made us better,” she noted, adding that they were complimented by inspectors about their compliance and never fined.

She admitted it was sometimes challenging to get customers to follow the rules, especially as time passed and they became more frustrated.

“We are hoping for the day when life returns to pre-COVID ways. We made it, we’re here and we’re grateful,” she said.

Jack and the Beanstalk Child Care Center

Patti Jack started the process of opening a new day care center in Boulder City before the onslaught of COVID-19.

The facility was finished early in 2020, and the license process was completed in October. She opened full time in December.

“The licensing took awhile,” she said. “I don’t think COVID delayed that.”

Jack said COVID has caused a couple of issues with her business, but she and her staff are pushing through. One issue is that there has been a slow start to enrollment.

“People are starting to call now that schools are opening and people are going back to work,” she said. “We are making it work. … Enrollment is building. That is one issue that is resolving itself.”

Another issue is the availability of fingerprinting for her staff. Boulder City Police Department offered fingerprinting services, but it stopped once the pandemic started.

“We have to go to Metro(politan Police Department) to get our fingerprints done,” she said.

Jack said in the next year her goal is to have the classes full and to continue to support the community.

“Our outlook is to be here for the community and be open for the community and Boulder City,” she said.

Bella Marketplace

Like many other businesses in Nevada, Bella Marketplace was forced to close for two months as the state grappled with ways to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“When we were shut down, it was rather stunning. It was such an unknown,” said owner Faye Simak. “We knew we were going to reopen, but we didn’t know if we would have any customers or be sitting and twiddling our thumbs.”

Fortunately — and surprisingly — when the store reopened May 17, business at the store featuring antiques, art and giftware was better than it was before.

“When the world reopened a bit, people were glad to get out,” she said.

And they visited her store on Wyoming Street.

Simak said her business is up between 50 percent and 60 percent over 2019. However, she attributes the increase more to efforts she made to highlight the store and expand its offerings than just because it provided a place for people to shop in the midst of a pandemic.

According to Simak, in October 2019 she created a website for the store and boosted its online presence, along with some increased advertising.

She said the pandemic definitely halted the growth pattern she was beginning to see but once she reopened, it didn’t take too long for it to resume.

Simak also began offering specialty do-it-yourself decor classes before the pandemic hit and she is getting ready to restart them.

“They will not be at the same capacity, but a few less people isn’t going to hurt anything,” she said.

Simak also said she hopes to open the facility for special events.

“If we are any example, I think Boulder City will fare very well through the pandemic,” Simak said.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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