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COVID takes a toll on local businesses

Danielle Roniger, owner of Allure Salon, has lost 8 weeks of work this year so far due to six weeks of her business being shut down and having to quarantine for a family member for another two. She has to purchase more personal protective equipment PPE, more cleaning supplies, and more laundry detergent to wash the cover gowns after every use. It hasn’t been easy, and it has been expensive.

Allure Salon, owned by Danielle Roniger, has felt the impact of Covid in added expense, heightened safety precautions, and stylists leaving.

She lost quite a number of male clients, which she found odd, but talking to some of them, she found they had to take pay cuts on their jobs, so they started getting haircuts at home.

Another unexpected effect of the pandemic was three of her stylists left, partially from fear of COVID and partially due to the instability of a client base and the possibility of losing work. Roniger commented, “Another did some soul-searching and decided it wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.” Their departure wasn’t necessarily due to actual COVID but it was somewhat because of the pandemic and concerned spouses. 

Since the stylists are independent contractors, they pay a rent to Roniger and she also receives sales commissions on products sold. She has had difficulty finding other stylists despite a relatively large number of them moving into the area. They have mostly moved into Lower Valley and want to work closer to home. 

Roniger is bearing the weight of all the overhead and increased expenses for her salon all alone. 

“There is, under normal circumstances, quite a lot of risk in the hair styling industry, a lot of overhead and the difficulty of building a client base. Now there’s a lot more risk,” and Roniger believes that’s impacting her ability to find more stylists. “A lot of people are not willing to take the risk right now.”

When asked about the outlook for the future, Roniger said, “It’s kind of like a roller coaster. I’m optimistic that things will get better and sometimes I’m a little scared. For me, I know there will eventually be someone who comes to help with the overhead dilemma. About the future, I’m not sure who does know for sure.” 


Star Valley Health

Jodi Hill, VP of Marketing and Communication, detailed the impact COVID has had at Star Valley Health. “We’re learning that we rely on a lot of external sources for supplies, so it’s not always up to the hospital’s discretion. We don’t always know what our allotment of supplies or the vaccine will be or how often we will be receiving it.”

Jodi Hill, VP of Marketing and Communication for Star Valley Health, explained the impact Covid 19 has had at the hospital.

Despite supply chain difficulties and other logistical challenges, Star Valley Health has accomplished the near-impossible feat of a zero transmission rate after having treated over 775 patients who tested positive for COVID——meaning zero infections of hospital staff or other patients during treatment of the COVID patients. 

Hill explained, “We’re dealing with a lot of the same things other local businesses are. People are reluctant to come in for other treatments because they’re afraid they might catch COVID. We have truly strict protocols in place to keep our COVID patients isolated and have negative-pressure rooms so there isn’t transfer of the COVID virus. The hospital and the clinics are the safest places people can be right now.”

Hill implored people to come get treated. She outlined that nationwide people are dying of heart attacks and strokes because they’re afraid to be seen at emergency rooms. She said, “You’ll be safe from COVID and we can help you with any other symptoms you might be experiencing.” 

The CDC has provided vaccine recommendations based on the patient’s need, broken down in tiers by level of need for the vaccine. Right now, the hospital is vaccinating people in tier 1b with the Moderna vaccine. The Wyoming Department of Health has provided further guidelines that Star Valley Health utilizes.

Originally SVH was slated to receive the Pfizer vaccine, but due to unforeseen circumstances it was determined that the Moderna vaccine would be the best fit for Lincoln County. The hospital received the first shipment of Moderna vaccine on Christmas eve, which it immediately began to distribute. 

According to a Moderna press release, the Moderna vials have to be used within a short time from when they are received and must be stored at standard freezer temperatures around minus 4 Fahrenheit, which creates a shelf life of 6 months, or 30 days refrigerated at between 36 to 46 Fahrenheit for a duration of 30 days.

“So you have people scheduled and ready to go and those folks receive their vaccinations. Let’s say two people no-show or cancel on you. That means you’ve got to find two new people last minute to fill those slots,” Hill said. “We try and continue to try to be as fair and reasonable as possible, but we might need to get those new people to the hospital almost immediately so we can use that vial before it goes bad.” 

People who qualify under the tier system, can sign up for a COVID vaccination at The hospital at present has vaccine vials and is working with the state on getting the next allotment.

Daniel Ordyna, CEO of Star Valley Health, comes to Star Valley from Portneuf Hospital in Pocatello, Idaho.

“Before, we were just testing symptomatic patients. The hospital is opening to test for COVID for those planning to travel,” commented Hill. “Now in a lot of places, you will need to show you have a negative test before getting on a plane or visiting someone in a nursing home in a different state.” The requirements can change almost daily, so a traveler might just need the negative test for a lot of different situations——even just for safety or caution when visiting family.

Typically, if people are symptomatic, their insurance (depending on which carrier or plan people have) will cover the cost of the test. If a person is asymptomatic and gets tested, probably insurance will not cover the cost of the test, so it would be an out-of-pocket expense of $150 at SVH.

SVH offers testing services at the clinics in Alpine or Afton. The Alpine clinic is only testing symptomatic patients. Afton is testing symptomatic patients, but will also test asymptomatic patients who want to secure a negative test for travel or safety purposes. 

The Afton testing clinic is located on the south side of the hospital. There will be signs directing where to go and a phone number to call when the patient arrives. A staff member will come out and perform a nasal swab while the patient stays in her car. The details are on the Star website.

Hill commented, “We are excited about the future. We are grateful to have added Daniel Ordyna to the hospital team as CEO. He will bring a lot of innovation and growth to the hospital. Dan’s leadership skills carried Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello, Idaho to increase the quality of care and services available to patients and are thrilled to have him in Star Valley.”


Cozy Berry

Rumors have circulated around Afton that The Cozy Berry bakery/restaurant was going out of business since the phone was disconnected and there were no posts on Facebook dated after Dec 25th. 

Owner Peggy Pollitt contacted SVI and commented about the impact COVID has had on her business: “Obviously I’m closed now, so it’s had a huge impact. People are––and no blame on the people in the valley or tourists––they’re just afraid to come out, and spend money not knowing what’s going to happen with COVID or the economy.” 

As to the future Pollitt  explained that she has no firm plans yet. “This thing has been going on for 10 months. They shut us down the first time, so we had to go to carry-out and curbside, which was difficult at best. It just didn’t work out very well.”

Pollitt plans to do some baking from her home for now. She’s discovered there are a lot of different rules pertaining to working from home vs a restaurant, “You can’t do meat products and that kind of stuff, so I will just be doing my baked goods. A lot of people have contacted Pollitt, inquiring  about her doing muffins, bagels or cupcakes. She will be doing those as soon as she can get arrangements finalized at her building where the Cozy Berry is located. 

Pollitt encouraged anyone interested in ordering bakery items to contact her through her personal Facebook page since the Cozy Berry is closed and she isn’t currently checking its Facebook Page.  

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