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66% ECPs Rate Their COVID-19 Anxiety Level as ‘Moderate’ or Higher

And 16% have severe anxiety or are close to panicking. But there are silver linings.

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WHAT WE’RE CURRENTLY experiencing is without precedent. Never before has so much information — and especially incorrect information — about a news topic been so instantaneously available. Given the potential severity of the COVID-19 outbreak and the overwhelming nature of the reporting on it, it’s easy to see why 66 percent of respondents to INVISION’s Coronavirus Impact Survey are reporting their anxiety levels are raised.

anxiety over COVID-19 survey statistics

SOURCE: INVISION Brain Squad survey, March 17-18,2020

Pam Housley of Texas State Optical of Nederland in Port Arthur, TX, says of her staff: “Some are in panic mode while others show indifference to the situation.” While Judy Scheuerell of Fox Valley Family Eye Care in Little Chute, WI, reports, “I’m amazed at how out of hand this got so quickly,” and Phil Harris of Eyes on Fifth in San Diego, CA, one of the first states hit hard by the coronavirus, adds, “We have had no — 0 — customers.”

In New Jersey, Dr. Marc Ullman of Academy Vision in Pine Beach, says of his business: “80 percent cancellations and only seeing emergencies.” He adds, “We are disinfecting so much that the solutions have eaten through my waiting room chairs and I will need to replace all of them after this crisis is over. I let one staff member who was anxious not come in but otherwise I am hiding in my office because everyone seems very cranky.”

Many ECPs still feel like it’s their duty to continue to provide care to their communities during this health crisis. “We are doctors of the eye so we should care for urgent eyecare issues always,” says Dr. Zachary Dirks of St. Peter and Belle Plaine Eyecare Centers in Saint Peter, MN. “I took an oath to help people and be a resource,” agrees Dr. Cynthia Sayers of EyeShop Optical Center in Lewis Center, OH. “I’d prefer to see red eyes/emergencies instead of them clogging up ERs/urgent cares at this time.”

“I believe that we cannot burden other facets of healthcare by not continuing to take care of our patients,” says Dr. Tammy Warmouth of Main Optical in Luzerne, PA.

Many we surveyed feel that way, even when it’s at risk to themselves. “I’m coming in to help others even when I’m afraid my family will be affected,” says Dr. Nytarsha Thomas of Visionelle Eyecare in Zionsville, IN. Dr. Texas L. Smith of Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates in Citrus Heights, CA, adds, “I’m most at risk in the office since I’m 77 years old. My staff is 45-60 years old,” but he was still showing up to treat patients.

“Our area has so few healthcare providers, and we deal with urgent or emergent care on a daily basis at some of our locations,” says Jen Heller of Pend Oreille Vision Care, Sandpoint, ID. “If we ‘close,’ we will still have an on-call location and doctor, and we will still dispense hardware in some manner.”

Others are trying to exert control where they can. “It seems odd, but I feel good about having removed all the extra ‘stuff’ around the office. Dispensing mats, lens demonstrators, pamphlets, etc. that are often touched by multiple people a day,” says Christine Howard of Attleboro Vision Care in Attleboro, MA. “Maybe it’s just because things look cleaner/neater and it’s a visible reminder that we’re ‘trying?’”
Ann-Marie Weaver of Optimal Eye Care in Lewis Center, OH, reports they’re trying to keep their spirits up. “To help keep up morale, we have played games such as BINGO and Unicorn Frisbee.”

Thinking more long-term, 56 percent of respondents are not confident that the government will come up with a way to help small business weather this crisis. But that doesn’t mean the remaining 44 percent have confidence it will; in fact, only 16 percent have any confidence in the government to help small business and the remaining 28 percent think it’s just too soon to tell.

Survey results government support COVID-19

SOURCE: INVISION Brain Squad survey, March 17-18,2020

In the meantime, Tiffany Firer of Lifetime Eyecare in Jenison, MI, is urging her staff not to minimize how others are feeling during this time.

“We all are varying levels of freakout and however we’re feeling is valid. That being said, it is our duty to lead our patients through this scary time in the best way we can.”

There are folks focused on the silver linings. “I am letting people know that I can see emergencies and it may help my long-term business as malls and the Walmart doctors are not seeing patients currently,” Academy Vision’s Ullman points out.

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“I’m reaffirming to our staff that our financial business policies have set us up to remain after this crisis. They still have jobs, etc.,” says Dr. Tina Smrkovski of Reed Optical in Claremont, NH. “We’re using our closed time for virtual staff meetings and to work on those projects we never have time to complete … so after this, our business will be stronger and more prepared for the rush of business when life is ‘normal.’”
“Look … in a business we hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” says Steve Nelson of Eye Candy Optical in Westlake, OH. “This is an eye opener for managing your costs. I know our vendors will be cross but we are only making necessary purchases (frames specifically).” He urges others to “negotiate with your labs. Look at hours. Make financial decisions based on whether they ADD value, meaning profit.”
“We are all in this together. I have to believe in the human spirit,” he concludes.

Ultimately, Annette Prevaux of The Visionary in Allen Park, MI, sums it up this way: “It sucks, but kindness, faith and hope are still available and free.”

Having built a career in service journalism, Dee has been covering the eyecare industry for over a decade. As editor-in-chief of INVISION Magazine, she is passionate about telling independent ECPs stories and can be reached directly at [email protected]

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