Steve Pham

What a difference a week makes.

A week ago, I was looking forward to connecting with industry folks at the Hearth Patio & Barbecue Expo in New Orleans, excited to see what backyard trends were emerging for the summer. Sure, I had an ear open to the news and heard some of squawking over coronavirus, but it seemed a minor inconvenience, just “a bad flu” as many were calling it. I was still planning to go — I had even checked in to my flight. To my delight, I had been upgraded, which is something that never happens. (That should’ve been my first clue that something was wrong!)

So when my husband came home that night and expressed his concern over my travel plans, it came as a surprise. My husband is not a worrywart and has never asked me to change travel plans before. But for the first time, he did.

“I’m not going to tell you what to do, but too many things are changing too quickly,” he said. “What if you get stuck in New Orleans with no way to get back?” Inwardly, I doubted that would happen, but by the end of the day, I saw that many things I never thought would happen, had happened: All colleges and universities had closed, President Trump announced an international travel ban, and events were being canceled left and right.

But the kicker was a phone call I got that night from a friend. “I’m sick,” she said. “I have a fever and nasal congestion.” I had spent the day with her just two days before.

There was a good chance I could have gotten the bug as well. And if it turned out to be coronavirus, then I couldn’t bear the thought of having transmitted it to anyone else. I stayed home.

In retrospect, it was the right decision. By the end of the week, things rapidly changed, not just from day to day but from hour to hour. Schools have shut down, some for the remainder of the school year. The economy is taking a deep dive. Millions have been ordered to shelter in place in a desperate bid to “flatten the curve” and prevent overwhelming hospitals.

Pool business owners now are faced with difficult decisions. Do you halt construction? Stop service calls? Close your store? Lay off staff?

These are scary questions amid scary times. But it’s important to listen to your public health officials and make decisions accordingly. Essentially, what it boils down to is the health and safety of yourself, your staff and customers. As of now, it’s vital to maintain a distance of 6 feet between people to prevent the transmission of the virus. Can you guarantee that — whether it’s at your construction sites, service calls or in your store? If not, I think the answer is clear.

Be an example to your staff and community — show them that their wellbeing, along with their families and friends at home, are of the utmost importance.

Stay safe.