On Tuesday, March 10, the Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Utah Department of Health announced what was then the state of Utah’s second confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The case, involving a female older than 60, was announced as being treated at Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital on Harrison Boulevard.
It seems crazy to think how much has changed in the state and the world in the days since then.
Students have been sent home from schools for at least two weeks and possibly longer. City and county governments have instituted restrictions on public gatherings. Restaurants across the state will soon be closed to dine-in services.
This week, three Ogden businesses located on the same city block on Harrison Boulevard less than a mile north of McKay-Dee Hospital, started doing what they could to help the community as Ogden residents grapple with the evolving societal and economic impacts caused by the virus.
On Monday, Cafe VillaBella began serving free sack lunches to kids who are out of school and can’t get a lunch.
The first three customers on Monday wanted sack lunches for their children. Kayden Petersen-Craig, the restaurant’s owner, said something pulled at his heartstrings when he saw that.
“They’re going to feed their kids before they feed themselves,” said Petersen-Craig, who guessed he gave out 30 lunches on Monday.
Later that day, he started offering lunches to parents and about 10 of them accepted. In a phone interview Monday night, he anticipated the number of lunches he’d serve Tuesday would increase.
“I have a really close friend who has a 4-year-old and school got canceled, and I have a lot of people I know and their kids are on free lunch. In my head, I’m thinking, ‘Well, if they’re out of school, they’re not going to have access to free lunch,’” Petersen-Craig said.
Petersen-Craig’s restaurant is one of three businesses, that are a stone’s throw away from each other, trying to provide some relief to citizens.
“We kind of joined forces here,” said Nick De Bock, owner of Royal Motors.
De Bock’s business, an auto shop that specializes in car detailing, and World Martial Arts & Fitness Academy, a gym that occupies a long, brown building parallel to Harrison Boulevard, are getting in on the community help.
“I was thinking, ‘Man all these people’s schools are canceled. Jobs aren’t canceled, bills aren’t canceled.’ So these moms and dads don’t want to leave their kids at home. What do they do?” said Chris Morris, who owns the gym.
So, he decided on offering a free daycare-like service from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Monday, he had three kids in the daycare.
And he’s got a plan for how to fill the time, a problem millions of Americans are starting to encounter as day-to-day life drastically changes.
They’ll do a form of yoga from 8-9 a.m., homework and reading from 9-11, lunch at noon and a video to relax at 1 p.m. along with parent pickup.
“What I want to do with the daycare is — we don’t want to take babies, right? We want to take kids that are in school so we can benefit the parents,” said Morris, who’s in the U.S. Army Reserve.
Petersen-Craig said everyone coming in for a free lunch will get a recommendation or a business card to Morris’ gym.
For parents who drop their kids off at the gym, they can get their cars sanitized for free by Royal Motors in a process that De Bock says takes about a half hour to complete.
De Bock, who served in the U.S. Army in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said he anticipated a public panic attack once the coronavirus pandemic became more dire in the United States. He wondered what he could do to help.
“We want to make sure that we can give them something that makes them a little more comfortable,” De Bock said.
The sanitization process (normally $10) is free to parents dropping their kids off at World Martial Arts.
De Bock’s business mainly does detailing for cars, but it started in aviation detail.
He wants to help out police officers with their vehicles as well, since there’s no way to know whether somebody an officer arrests and transports in a squad car has the virus.
Cafe VillaBella isn’t normally open Mondays, but Petersen-Craig sent a message to his employees and asked if anyone could help him serve free lunches Monday.
He and the employee who helped serve lunches adjusted on the fly then.
Late Tuesday night, another announcement in a never-ending series of them came down the pipe: the Utah Department of Health ordered all restaurants in the state to suspend dine-in services for a period of two weeks starting Wednesday, March 18, at 11:59 p.m.
Free lunches are available at the door.