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What companies in Chicago are doing to ease customers’ and employees’ coronavirus worries

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 3/3/2020 By Chicago Tribune staff, Chicago Tribune
a group of people standing around a table: Coronoavirus has had an impact on Pittcon, an annual convention of lab scientists taking place at McCormick Place, March 3, 2020, in Chicago. Hand sanitizer was made available at a number of booths. © Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Coronoavirus has had an impact on Pittcon, an annual convention of lab scientists taking place at McCormick Place, March 3, 2020, in Chicago. Hand sanitizer was made available at a number of booths.

The coronavirus isn’t business as usual, but companies are taking steps to try to keep their customers and employees safe as the number of cases mounts across the U.S.

On Tuesday, the University of Chicago Medical Center said it was treating a patient with suspected case of the coronavirus. Four others have already tested positive for the virus in Illinois. As of Monday evening, there were 108 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., including those who tested positive by their local health departments and those whose positive results have been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

a man holding a sign: Benjamin Figueroa, of the University of Washington, dries his hands after applying Purel hand sanitizer at Pittcon at McCormick Place on March 3, 2020. © Terrence Antonio James/Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Benjamin Figueroa, of the University of Washington, dries his hands after applying Purel hand sanitizer at Pittcon at McCormick Place on March 3, 2020.

Here’s what companies are doing in the Chicago area:

Hands-off yoga

CorePower Yoga, which has more than a dozen locations throughout Chicago, sent an email to class attendees Monday that said it is taking precautionary measures to ensure its studios are clean and safe.

Instructors have reduced physical assistance during classes, and increased cleaning protocols to more frequently sanitize weights, props and other surfaces, the email said. CorePower has “hospital-grade disinfectant sprays” available for use on mats and props.

The Denver-based yoga studio chain also asked that all students and instructors wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before and after class.

“If you aren’t feeling well, we ask that you please stay home from class for your wellbeing and that of your fellow students and teachers,” the email said.

Travel restrictions

Many companies already have limited international travel for employees. Some are taking it a step further and curtailing domestic trips.

Cushman & Wakefield, which has 53,000 total employees in 60 countries, is restricting employees from large domestic gatherings, such as attending industry conferences or hosting client events.

Motorola Solutions canceled its trip to the ISC West security conference and expo in Las Vegas later this month.

Crystal Lake-based Atlas Language Services finds interpreters to translate at events in the U.S. and abroad. At least a dozen events that Atlas planned to send interpreters to have been canceled because of coronavirus, said director Jennifer Alvarez.

Hand sanitizers, elbow bumps at conventions

At PittCon, an annual convention for laboratory sciences being held this week at McCormick Place, attendees seem to have adopted a new greeting etiquette.

“We notice a lot more people doing the elbow bump,” said Rocco Pacella, head of marketing for PittCon. “There is a lot less handshaking, a lot less hugging.”

The venue set up hundreds of hand sanitation stations and concession workers are wearing gloves, Pacella said. PittCon organizers also bought large pump bottles of hand sanitizer for staff and exhibit booths.

Attendance at the convention, which normally draws about 10,000 to 12,000 people, is down significantly due to coronavirus travel restrictions, Pacella said. Nearly a fifth of participants travel from abroad, with the biggest international contingent from China, which has affected programming because Chinese lecturers scheduled to give presentations were unable to attend, he said.

Cross-trained employees

MBX Systems, in Libertyville, has started to cross-train employees on certain roles if workers get caught up in travel restrictions or must work remotely to prevent spreading the virus, said Justin Formella, chief strategy officer.

At least half of the 180 workers at the company, which provides server and computing equipment, must be present to do their jobs, which include manufacturing, warehouse and logistics roles, Formella said.

“Most businesses have contingency plans if there’s a fire or a flood or something like that, but most companies haven’t prepped for what happens if half your staff is quarantined,” he said.

iPad rentals

The core of Meeting Tomorrow’s business is producing large corporate events, but in the last week, many of the Chicago-based company’s customers have begun looking for alternatives, like virtual meetings and conferences using webcasting.

The 90-employee company also rents out iPads, and has seen a surge in demand from companies preparing to enable their employees to work from home, said CEO Mark Aistrope said.

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©2020 the Chicago Tribune

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