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‘A Gut-Wrenching Decision’: ECP Biz Owners Tell Us Their Best Coronavirus Calls

From closing up shop to dumping their waiting-room magazines, owners and managers are making tough, unusual — and even some downright simple — decisions to deal with COVID-19.

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COVID-19 is posing special challenges for small business owners, from the financial to the emotional. Are you keeping up with, and making the most of, government assistance measures? Are you prioritizing costs and cuts, being honest with yourself about your payroll situation, showing leadership while discouraging panic? How about designating an official staff “clean-up/disinfection” song? And are you managing to smile in the face of it all?

We asked respondents to our INVISION Coronavirus Impact Survey to tell us their best decision so far as a manager/leader in this time of crisis. Here’s a sampling of what they told us:

  • “Look… in a business we hope for the best and prepare for the worst. 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). Negotiate with your labs. Look at hours. Make financial decisions based on whether they ADD value—meaning profit. – Steve Nelson, Eye Candy Optical, Westlake, OH
  • #1 Decision: Take the hit and close all non-essential business. – Erika Tydor Shoreline Eyecare, Shoreline, WA
  • I printed a coronavirus question sheet for the front desk to use on the phone and in person with patients and told them how to handle people by asking some to wait in their cars, as well as posting info online. I let one staff member who was anxious not come in, but otherwise I am hiding in my office room because everyone seems very cranky. – Marc Ullman, Academy Vision, Pine Beach, NJ
  • To help keep up morale, we have played games such as bingo…. – Ann-Marie Weaver, Optimal Eye Care, Lewis Center, OH
  • Though it was a gut-wrenching decision, closing my shop has been the best decision for me, my staff and my community. — Tamra Asmuth, One Hip Chic Optical, Rochester, NY
  • Reaffirming to our staff that our financial business policies have set us up to remain after this crisis. They still have jobs, etc. Using closed time for virtual staff meetings and those projects we never have time to complete, so that after this, our business will be stronger and more prepared for the rush of business when life is “normal”. – Tina Smrkovski, Reed Optical, Claremont, NH.
  • Smiling. – Phil Harris, EYES ON FIFTH, San Diego, CA
  • Asking the entire team for input, instead of mandating new things from above. It’s always great to see how many ideas we can generate when collaborating together. – Jan Heller, Pend Oreille Vision Care, Sandpoint, ID
  • Staying calm. – Bob McBeath, Edina Eye, Edina, MN
  • 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. Maybe it’s just because things look cleaner/neater and it’s a visible reminder that we’re “trying?” – Christine Howard, Attleboro Vision Care, Attleboro, MA
  • Having a meeting with staff explaining the “what if” scenarios. How we will or will not be able to sustain their pay if forced to shut down. How we need to be more vigilant. – Jim Williams, Eye to Eye Optometry Inc, Mexico, MO
  • I discontinued the use of magazines in the waiting room, along with coffee for patients. – Frances Ann Layton, Eye Associates of South GA, Valdosta, GA
  • Letting my employees take toilet paper home (lol). Letting them choose to work or not. – Annette Prevaux, The Visionary Inc, Allen Park, MI
  • Surveying all customers upon entry to screen them at the door. – Adam Ramsey, Socialite Vision, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
  • We were the first to close in our area. As Dr. Cassar stated on the “Closed” sign, “To best care for our patients and our staff we have decided to close until March 31. Stay safe.” – Bethany Cassar, Complete Eye Health, Holland, MI
  • Insisting that we not minimize how each other is feeling during all of this. We are all at varying levels of freak-out, 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. – Tiffany Firer, Lifetime Eyecare, Jenison, MI

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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EyePoint Cuts Jobs Due to COVID-19 Crisis

The company makes Dexycu and Yutiq.

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WATERTOWN, MA — EyePoint Pharmaceuticals Inc. is planning workforce reductions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The company (NASDAQ: EYPT) said it expects $7 million in annual savings from the reductions and $10 million in one-time savings from other planned expenditure cancellations and deferrals. It did not say how many employees would lose their jobs.

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EyePoint has two commercial products: Dexycu, the first approved intraocular product for the treatment of postoperative inflammation, and Yutiq, a three-year treatment of chronic non-infectious uveitis affecting the posterior segment of the eye.

The company said in a press release that it’s experienced “a significant decline in product demand associated with shut-downs of customer facilities and postponements of elective surgical procedures in response to COVID-19.”

“COVID-19 driven closures have significantly impacted our customer base and this commercial reorganization is necessary to focus the Company’s resources on continuing to serve patients who are still being treated with YUTIQ and DEXYCU,” said Nancy Lurker, president and CEO of the firm. “We have prioritized our overall spending to focus on a more targeted commercial footprint, conserve cash and to continue advancing EYP-1901, a six-month potential treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, toward clinical development.

“Our patients, employees, shareholders and the ocular disease community remain our top priorities as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to recognize and thank those affected by this reorganization for their dedication to EyePoint and our patients, and we will work to make their transitions to other opportunities as smooth as possible.”

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Other details from the release:

Dedicated to Delivering Our Innovative Ocular Disease Treatments to Patients

EyePoint is committed to providing uninterrupted access to our products during the COVID-19 pandemic for those patients who are in essential need of treatment. Our supply chains for YUTIQ and DEXYCU are robust and have not been interrupted during the pandemic. The Company has ample supply of API and other raw materials for YUTIQ and DEXYCU, and EyePoint continues to produce finished product for commercial sale. Our commercial team is providing ongoing support services for patients and physician offices on an as-needed basis, while respecting the need to maintain social distancing.

Focusing of Commercial Operations in Response to COVID-19 Impact on Commercial Markets

The Company will downsize its current workforce, with reductions coming primarily from the external DEXYCU sales force and supporting commercial operations as cataract surgery is considered a non-essential procedure due to the pandemic. The Company plans to allocate its remaining DEXYCU commercial resources to high-volume ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) in key U.S. regions, subject to the availability of such ASCs to perform elective cataract surgery upon the lifting of restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Company will continue to invest in its YUTIQ commercial operations, as treatments for patients suffering from non-infectious uveitis affecting the posterior segment of the eye continue to be deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, given that irreversible blindness is a potential consequence of delaying treatment.

The reorganization is  Based on these actions, coupled with cash conservation activities, the Company is able to reconfirm its expected cash runway into 2021 under current assumptions for the duration of the COVID-19-related closures across the U.S.

The Company estimates that it will record approximately $0.6 million for severance and other costs related to the workforce reduction in the second quarter of 2020. Further details on the financial implications of the corporate restructuring will be included in the Company’s 10-Q for the first quarter of 2020 and other filings to be made with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Business Continuity Plan to Protect Employees and Advance Development Pipeline

In early March 2020, the Company mandated a work from home policy for all employees who are not deemed essential to our manufacturing operations and suspended all non-essential travel. The Company has maintained a rotating, limited schedule to ensure continued production of YUTIQ and DEXYCU with heightened safety precautions for our employees.

Research and development initiatives remain on schedule. In March, the Company initiated a good laboratory practice (GLP) toxicology study for EYP-1901, a six-month sustained release anti-VEGF potential treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration. We expect to file an investigational new drug (IND) application for this program in the fourth quarter of 2020 with a Phase 1 clinical trial to commence shortly thereafter.

The Company continues to assess its policies, business continuity plans and employee support needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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New Mido Dates Announced

The trade show will be held Feb. 6-8, 2021.

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The 50th edition of the Mido eyewear trade show has been scheduled for Feb. 6-8, 2021.

“The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic in Italy and its swift spread to the rest of the world, along with doubts about when the crisis will normalize globally, have forced us to make the painful, but crucial, decision to safeguard exhibitors and visitors, buyers and stakeholders, staff and everyone involved in the organization, management and operation of the show,” said Mido President Giovanni Vitaloni. “The 50th anniversary edition is being moved to 2021 and we are convinced it will bring a new lease on life to the eyewear industry in Italy and abroad. Our focus, and that of all industry professionals, is to inject new vitality into a healthy economic system that – although slowed by the public health crisis – has never lost its driving force.”

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In February, the show’s board of directors announced that it would postpone the 2020 edition until dates, not yet determined at that point, between the end of May and mid June because of the coronavirus outbreak. The show had originally been scheduled for Feb. 29 to March 2, 2020.

The dates for the event in 2021 are about three weeks earlier than the show is normally held each year. It will be held at Fiera Milano Rho.

“A significant change, one we had planned to announce during the 2020 edition,” Vitaloni said. “By
moving the date forward several weeks, we can give an additional boost to the eyewear business globally and in Italy.”

Vitaloni continued: “During these perplexing times, in an ongoing scenario of diminishing revenues and increasing costs, national and international businesses are struggling to strike a balance between the need to keep working and the essential task of ensuring the safety of their employees. This is why we must make certain that, once the pandemic has peaked, businesses know they can count on MIDO to showcase their collections, machinery, ophthalmic innovations, tech inventions and, each in their own field of specialization, get back to doing business. By fostering an alliance between exhibitors and visitors, in a climate of restored confidence, MIDO can play a crucial role in the recovery.”

While awaiting MIDO 2021, the MIDO4U digital platform is a key resource that connects exhibitors with international buyers.

“Of course, the digital platform cannot replace an actual fair, where people can mingle and talk business,” Vitaloni said, “but it is an accessible means of real, albeit virtual, interaction that ensures the industry a viable way to continue to build business relationships.”

 

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ICU Eyewear Pivots to Make Face Masks, COVID-19 Test Kits, Other Equipment with Contour Optik

It’s working with partner companies in China.

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HOLLISTER, CA — ICU Eyewear, in partnership with Contour Optik, has pivoted its production resources to produce personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits.

Nationwide demand for personal protective equipment far exceeds supply at the moment, putting healthcare workers and other essential service providers at risk, the company noted in a press release.

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“We are working with our partner companies in China to assist them in going through the FDA regulatory process,” said ICU CEO Kirk Hobbs. “This ensures that our products meet U.S standards so they can be imported and placed into the hands of the providers who need them.”

ICU is able to produce and ship the following in mass quantities:

– N95 face masks
– KN95 (Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the KN95 is underway)
– ASTM Levels 1, 2, and 3 face masks
– Goggles, face shields, gloves and other protective equipment

For example, ICU can manufacture KN95s at a rate of 1 million per day, and ASTM Levels 1 and 2 face masks at a rate of over 5 million per day.

ICU is also North America’s exclusive agent for Mole Bioscience.

“Together we are working to get COVID-19 test kits to market as quickly as possible,” ICU said in the release. “The FDA’s requisite EUA process is underway and once that approval is granted, tests will be available immediately.”

“ICU and Contour are pleased to be donating a total of 100,000 masks and 50,000 face shields to medical organizations in underserved communities throughout the state of California in this time of great need,” added David Chao, CEO of Contour Optik.

California-based ICU Eyewear is an FDA-certified supplier of eyewear focused on the retail channel with customers including Target, Whole Foods and Office Depot.

ICU noted that it is “able to support the emergency demand for these materials in the United States because Contour has specialized knowledge and experience in the production of PPE,” adding that Contour “was drafted by the Chinese government to produce surgical goggles and face shields during the peak of their own COVID-19 crisis.”

According to the release: “As a member of the consortium of companies called upon to produce PPE for the Chinese outbreak, Contour developed connections and relationships throughout the Chinese PPE supply-chain. Contour and ICU have developed supply relationships with key manufacturers for all of the PPE items, and are currently taking purchase orders and delivering.”

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