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Repair services hope for early entry into vaccine distribution

Repair services hope for early entry into vaccine distribution

PUEBLO, Colorado — Patterson Plumbing and Heating has helped families in southeastern Colorado to fix leaks and repair furnaces and water heaters for more than three decades. However, the recent spike in community spread of COVID-19 in Pueblo and surrounding areas has led to some tough decisions.

“We have one customer right now that, the whole family is positive. Their water heater went out, they haven’t had hot water for over a week,” said Rick Patterson, the company owner and president. “They’re being patient. We’ve got them on the schedule for the middle of next week.”

Service industry professionals are considered essential workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes most in-home repair service work to be at least a medium level risk for exposure. The risk increases in homes where someone suspected of having or know to have tested positive for the virus.

The government recommends that repair service businesses screen employees and customers for symptoms before scheduling work. Employers can advise service workers to discontinue work when a home is located in an area where there is ongoing community transmission of COVID-19.

Patterson worries that not all customers will be as patient or forthcoming as his current client in need of a water heater. He also fears that a furnace failure could become deadly.

“They don’t want to call anybody, so they resort to other forms of heat and go to sleep and then all die because of carbon monoxide poisoning,” Patterson explained.

While the trades are considered essential, they’re not often listed among front line workers when new policy directives are issued. Patterson thinks the risks warrant a second look.

“I sent a letter to the governor, just asking him to evaluate our industry because I haven’t seen it in the news, I haven’t seen it discussed anywhere,” he said.

While the first doses of COVID vaccine to arrive in Colorado will be distributed to doctors and nurses, Patterson hopes the skilled trades will be kept in mind as additional doses become available.

“I just don’t want to see us end up in April, May, June, still not having the vaccine because we don’t qualify in that early phase,” he said.

For urgent or emergency repairs, the OSHA guidelines recommend that employees wear personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, face shields when working in a home where someone has tested positive for the virus.

Customers should keep anyone who is sick or symptomatic in a separate room and social distancing rules should be followed while working in the home.

The guidelines also recommend opening a window or turning on the air conditioning to increase airflow.

Published at Fri, 11 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0000

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Written by Riel Roussopoulos

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