Commentary: Here’s where we are, four months into the pandemic

By Jo Schmeiser

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford has been open since the pandemic began (well, we were locked inside not allowing visitors during Phase 1). And in addition to keeping our members up-to-date with all things COVID-19-related, we have also been (and still are) reaching out to them to see how they’re doing and/or asking if we can help them in any way.

During the last four months, nine businesses joined our chamber (we had 11 new members during this time last year), we hosted two well-attended and worthwhile after-hours business mixers (including one in June combined with the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce), and we held a very successful 27th annual Golf Classic in mid-July.

However, please note we have also been conscious of the restrictions during the pandemic and have canceled or postponed many of our events, including our largest annual fundraiser, the outdoor Riverwalk “Freedom” Festival, originally set for Sept. 19.

Our annual Community Expo and Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon didn’t take place in March and April as planned, and have been postponed until October and December.

During this time, we’ve also been keeping an eye on COVID-19 statistics to make sure we’re making the right decisions about daily operations and our events.

As per the delaware.gov website the morning of July 30, there have been 177,016 people tested in the state, with 162,414 negative results and 14,602 positive results.

In and around the greater Milford area, businesses and organizations have also been mindful of the pandemic-related stats and have been following the Phase 1 and Phase 2 guidelines. Yet, they are curious as to when Delaware will move into Phase 3 and beyond.

This week, I reached out to some of our members in different business categories to find out what and how they’ve been doing during the pandemic and here’s what a few had to say.

How COVID has impacted the Milford Church of God (information provided by Pastor Andy Stevens, CCGM Economic Development Joint Task Force chairperson):

• We’ve worked in our community to feed thousands of people by safely mobilizing our volunteers with other local volunteers (i.e., the Milford School District and the U.S. Department of Agriculture).

• Currently, 50% of our congregation is attending in person on Sundays and 50% watch online.

• Financially, we are doing very well thanks to the many faithful and very generous people who call MCOG their spiritual home.

• We’ve recently hired a full-time family ministries pastor who will be focusing on middle and high school students in our community. We are thrilled to add this new ministerial position and believe it will be of great benefit to the greater Milford area.

• Restrictions have contributed to a growing sense of being disconnected. We are very concerned about the emotional, relational and spiritual needs (which are all interconnected) of those in our congregation and community. We are developing creative solutions to help people in these areas.

How COVID-19 has impacted the Harrington area (information provided by Jesse Riggin, CCGM board member):

• We started Delmarva Chiropractic & Wellness Center in 2016. Since then, we have seen roughly 30% growth annually in our business. COVID-19 hit in March, and because of the nature of our business, we decided to discontinue care for a great majority of our patients to reduce the risk of infection. In April, we were down 75% from where we were last year. In May, the numbers began to recover a little as we learned how to keep our patients and our staff safe while providing services. In June, we called back full staff and were back up to approximately 90%. In July, we were seeing a slight drop-off but still around 80% of where we were the year before. However, what you need to consider in this is that we were in a growth phase, so this 10% or 20% drop is really a 30% or 40% drop in where we would expect to be if there hadn’t been the pandemic. Of course, this is just the business side of things. As a health care provider, I have seen numerous people discontinue or postpone care that they desperately need both at my office and with their medical providers.

• As the president of the Harrington Business Association, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with many businesses and officials throughout our small community. Much like the rest of the state and the country, it is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the effect COVID-19 has had on individual businesses. For the most part, contractors are doing quite well. Some businesses that you wouldn’t expect to recover so rapidly, such as dog grooming, now have a waitlist. Of course, there are others in the service industry and restaurant industry who have not fared so well. Additionally, Harrington Heritage Days had to be canceled for 2020. For Harrington, this is going to be hard on the downtown businesses.

The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford will continue to stay in tune with our members and help them grow their business or organization while staying safe.

If you have any questions about the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, please email milford@milfordchamber.com or call 422-3344.

Jo Schmeiser is the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford.