Editor's note: Gilbert “Gil” Flores, a service technician with Cascade Pest Control, located in the greater Seattle area, submitted the following guest column, which reflects on his experiences working this past year as a service professional amid COVID-19.
I was working in the Kirkland, Washington area when the first news of the U.S. COVID broke. We had all been watching developments in China and wondering, not if, but when, we’d see the coming pandemic break out within the United States. I had no idea it would break out in the very town — and even the neighborhood — I service. Suddenly, news cameras and journalists were swarming around Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash. The scene was very unfortunate and continuously plastered on every news outlet day and night.
I kept servicing my customers wondering whether the virus would affect me directly, or my clients nearby, or whether it would just shut us all down. The first news was alarming, with no relief to those in the nursing home. We all watched in wonderment what it all meant. Luckilym the virus didn’t readily spread within the neighborhood directly. At that point we had no idea how contagious or virulent this virus was, or what we had to do to avoid it.
As time went on, COVID broke out in other U.S. locations, but it took time to determine how to respond, how to protect ourselves from it. At this point, my company was working with others in the pest management industry to ensure we’d be considered an essential service. Going out of work wasn’t a pleasant prospect, but neither was becoming infected. I had to consider my family as well. Over time, it became clear pest control would be deemed essential in the state of Washington. But we still needed to know what safety protocols really worked, and what risks we might be facing as we continued to work amongst the public.
Eventually, we had solid safety methods to follow, such as emphasizing outdoor service, wearing a mask and remaining a good distance from others. However, working with the public had a wide range of responses. I had some customers who would text me from inside and never come to the door…and then there others who didn’t bother wearing a mask and just came up close to discuss things. The range of behaviors has been pretty wide.
During this past year Cascade Pest Control experienced a few times where a technician or other staff person was either exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19, or were just sick with symptoms that might be suspicious. This resulted in a number of personnel getting tested or going through quarantine periods. But, luckily, no one has thus far been seriously affected.
As it turns out people’s pest control problems are important to them. They know they don’t want just another problem to occur on top of all the COVID-related changes in their lives. In fact, with people spending more time at home they both notice signs of pests more, and they are more diligent to ensure their environment is clear of pests.
As we enter our second year and vaccinations arrive on the scene we all hope that we can see the day that all of this is behind us. But we’ve all learned a tremendous amount along the way of how important pest management is to our society and how to manage a vital business during such times.