Getting a technician to come into your home to fix the cable or wireless doesn’t just require an appointment during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also involves a questionnaire:
Has anyone been sick or quarantined? Has anyone come in contact with someone who has or had COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Are you OK with following social distancing guidelines?
Condo residents also need to check with the association first to make sure the worker is still allowed to enter the building. That’s because some condo associations have stricter rules during the pandemic. And some buildings could consider plumbing issues essential while other jobs, like adjusting storm shutters, sliding doors or air conditioning, could be seen as preventative measures.
And for electricians, plumbers, air conditioning repair technicians and other in-home service workers, doing the job now comes with the added responsibility of suiting up, cleaning up and finding ways to do repairs with minimal contact.
“We are all having to do things a lot differently,” said Lucia Fonseca, one of the owners of Elekron Electric, which is based in Coral Gables.
Fonseca said her three technicians now have a mask, gloves, even shoe coverings to put on before entering someone’s home. She also sends a questionnaire to potential customers before sending a technician.
This is life under quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. With Florida under stay-at-home orders for now, more people are relying on working lights, Internet connectivity, water and air conditioning. All of which are considered essential services.
Mary Jo Trepka, an epidemiologist with Florida International University, said a person has to “weigh the risks” when it comes to allowing someone in their home. A broken air conditioner could be a health issue and warrant someone coming in to make the necessary repairs, she said. But in any case, Trepka said both the customer and the service provider should wear masks and obey social distancing guidelines.
“Having one person come into your house is not nearly as risky as going to the grocery store,” she said.
Brandsmart USA CEO Michael Perlman says there’s less foot traffic at Brandsmart USA because of the crisis, but has also noticed an increase in customers looking to buy “necessary” appliances unexpectedly.
“We’ve had people almost in tears,” tell employees their freezer, fridge or another “necessary” appliance broke and they need a new one immediately, he said. The Fort Lauderdale-based consumer electronics and appliance retailer has been able to handle the sales quickly during the crisis, he said, because its supply warehouses are in South Florida.
And while you might be able to avoid contact with others if you order online, you don’t have much of a choice if your toilet gets clogged or if your air conditioner breaks.
Manny Barbadaes, who owns MBI Plumbling in Pembroke Pines, said he is taking precautions that include wearing masks and gloves. He also has had some clients who have left the home so he could complete his work. He said he does his best to minimize the time at someone’s home.
“No matter what, people need their plumbing to work,” said Barbadaes, who said since the pandemic began he has gone through about 400 pairs of gloves.
Stephen Shea, of Action Air in Coral Gables, said customers appreciate the essential service.
“We are the unsung heroes, the ones keeping things running,” said Shea, whose technicians wear protective gear. “Most people can’t last very long with a broken air conditioner.”
Here’s what you should know before ordering an appliance or requesting a repair during the COVID-19 pandemic in South Florida:
Are AT&T and Best Buy doing tech repairs during COVID-19?
AT&T says it’s prioritizing work in the field for repairs and new service installations while requests for non-essential work, such as adding set-top boxes to existing TV service, will be delayed until the coronavirus situation improves. Technicians are also using video-chat tools to assist customers with questions.
AT&T says all of its technicians have been taught about CDC-recommended social distancing and personal hygiene. They also have been given soap or hand sanitizer to use through the day.
The company says all in-home repairs will only be completed by technicians who have personal protective equipment. The customers will also have to undergo two screenings before the technician is allowed to enter their home. The first set of questions will be asked when the customer contacts the company to request an appointment.
Once the technician arrives to the home, the customer will be questioned again. The AT&T employee will then decide if it is safe to enter the home.
To learn more about AT&T’s COVID-19 response, visit https://www.att.com/help/covid-19/
Best Buy’s Geek Squad has temporarily suspended house calls during the COVID-19 crisis but is still offering technical support on the phone or online at BestBuy.com. The retailer has also rolled out a free virtual in-home consultation feature to help customers find “tech solutions” for any questions they have about Best Buy appliances and home office equipment.
You can learn more about the consultation services at https://www.bestbuy.com/site/services/in-home-consultation/pcmcat748300620643.c?id=pcmcat748300620643
My fridge and washing/dryer machine broke. Can I still get one delivered or repaired during the COVID-19 shutdown?
You can still purchase appliances online and in retail stores that remain open, but before you click “Buy,” make sure you ask (either by phone or chat) if someone wearing personal protective equipment will bring the appliance into your house and install it during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should also make similar inquiries if you’re planning to schedule a repair. That’s because services might have changed during the crisis to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Here are examples of what to expect:
▪ Best Buy has temporarily suspended installations, haul-aways and repairs for large items including refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers and TVs. The retailer says it’s not allowing customers inside stores but is offering curbside contactless pickup for orders placed through BestBuy.com, the retailer’s app or over the phone.
For those who want to have a purchase shipped to them, the company says it will do free doorstep delivery (which will place the item as close to your front door as possible) but will not allow employees to bring any of the items, including appliances, into the customer’s home.
▪ While Sears stores are closed at least until April 30 because of the COVID-19 crisis, the retailer’s distribution centers, customer care centers and Sears.com will remain open to fulfill online orders, including appliances, and answer customer inquiries.
Sears Home Services will also continue to repair essential appliances. The services still being offered include product repair, home improvement, air duct and carpet cleaning, garage door and opener repair or replacement, a Sears spokesman said.
The available services may change depending on what orders the state, county or city has issued during the crisis. The spokesman said all Sears associates will also be required to wear protective washable or disposable masks or cloth face coverings while working.
However, the company is asking customers to review the following questions before scheduling an appointment:
▪ Do you have reason to believe that you, or someone in your household or someone who you are in close contact with, has been exposed to COVID-19?
▪ Have you, or anyone in your household, traveled abroad in the last 14 days?
▪ Do you or anybody in your household currently have any of the following symptoms: fever, cough and/or shortness of breath?
Customers who answer “yes” to any of the questions will not able to schedule an appointment with a technician for in-home services and are asked to try again after 14 days. Those who answer “no” to all of the questions will be allowed to click the “Schedule Now” button.
To learn more, visit https://www.searshomeservices.com/
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them
UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits
CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCRAPBOOK: Help us tell the story of life under coronavirus
BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there
LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.