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‘Essential’ Businesses Working To Stay Afloat During Pandemic

SANDY, Utah – Automotive shops are on the shortlist of essential businesses, but it’s still far from business as usual as the state’s focus remains on staying home and slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

“Just a dramatic decline in business,” said Chris Pappas, who manages Hillside Tire and Service in Sandy. “With everyone staying home and nobody going out, car repairs are not a priority.”

Salt Lake County issued a public health order Sunday, forcing places like barbershops, playgrounds and theaters to close, restricting restaurants and other businesses, and allowing many others like grocery stores and auto shops to continue operating.

“Not only do I not want any of my employees to get sick, I don’t want any of my employees responsible for getting my customers sick,” Pappas said.

And for that reason, they’ve implemented their own rules, like sanitizing cars before and after repair work. You’ll also find employees disinfecting high-touch surfaces and keypads in the showroom and lobby area every couple of hours.

“We try to stay as clean as we possibly can, to begin with,” Pappas said. “What we’re down to right now is the nitty-gritty of what do we do to prevent virus infection.”

And curbing the spread of COVID-19 wasn’t the only thing on Pappas’ mind.

“We don’t know if we’re going to have a business if this goes on for three months or six months. But we have to do our part to curve that bell. Otherwise, we’re going to be in worse shape than we are,” Pappas said.

Over the last couple of weeks, his shop has seen a 50-to-60 percent drop in customers.

In fact, Pappas said “the shocking thing to me is how many people call and are surprised that we are open.”

He said about eight out of 10 calls he gets begins with the caller asking, “oh, you’re open?”

They’re open alright. But with fewer people getting in the driver seat to head out on the road, Pappas has already had to let some workers go and cut down the hours of others.

Nearly half of his employees are mechanics, who are likely struggling the most. They work on commission. No work means no pay.

Pappas has still found reasons to be grateful, though. Hillside Tire and Service has a contract to service state vehicles like Utah Highway Patrol cruisers.

“Fortunately, that’s been a big part of what’s kept us busy,” he said.

For now, the future of his business and many others is uncertain.

“At 50% of volume, it’s not going to be long before we are essentially out of money,” he said.

Still, the remaining employees are working to do their part, slowing the spread of the virus today and hoping business will speed up, sooner than later.


Coronavirus Resources

See the latest information from the Utah Coronavirus Task Force here.

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a face mask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

How To Get Help

If you’re worried you may have COVID-19, you can contact the Utah Coronavirus Information Line at 1-800-456-7707 to speak to trained healthcare professionals. You can also use telehealth services through your healthcare providers.

Additional Resources

If you see evidence of PRICE GOUGING, the Utah Attorney General’s Office wants you to report it. Common items in question include toilet paper, water, hand sanitizer, certain household cleaners, and even cold medicine and baby formula. Authorities are asking anyone who sees price gouging to report it to the Utah Division of Consumer Protection at 801-530-6601 or 800-721-7233. The division can also be reached by email at consumerprotection@utah.gov.

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