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Community reflects on pandemic, as public health emergency ends

Posted at 7:34 PM, May 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-06 15:10:02-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — When the pandemic officially started in March of 2020 everything changed. Greg Cohen, owner of Lofty Pursuits in Tallahassee paid attention to international news and prepared for the worst. One of the major changes he made early on was doing away with tipped wages and paying all of his employees minimum wage.

"I knew tips weren't going to be what it was so I basically gave all my low end employees raises, made it clear they weren't going to be fired. I made sure they knew if they got sick they were still going to be paid, because I didn't want them to come in and get the rest of us sick," said Cohen.

Restaurants weren't the only ones having to make changes. Universities like Florida A&M University also had to adjust. Tanya Tatum, director of student health services, said a lot of changes have happened over the last few years.

"We have gone from on lock down for a short period of time, to doing classes virtually, to we actually reopened campus pretty early, gave students the option to do classes virtually, and then a semester later we were back on track," said Tatum.

Cohen said they've kept some of the practices from the pandemic in place. They expanded to dinner service which still exists on Friday and Saturday nights.

"Some of the things we did during the pandemic we're continuing to do, we turned back the clock on a lot of them, but we're still trying to catch up. We still don't have our 12 page ice cream menu back, I'm hoping to get that back in a couple of weeks," Cohen said.

While some businesses struggled, Cohen said he has managed to gain more customers. Post pandemic they're still doing well because he kept that minimum wage pay in place.

"We haven't had trouble finding employees it seems as the other people because we pay more but to do that we don't do table service anymore, we do counter service," Cohen said.

For universities, things are getting back to normal. But Tatum said they are still seeing Covid cases. Now they'll include it in what they test for when someone comes in with symptoms of an upper respiratory illness.

"Students may come in, they may be symptomatic and have upper respiratory symptoms so that will be one of the things we test for. We test for flu, strep, Covid, so our protocols will change a little bit," said Tatum.

Cohen said he's grateful his business thrived during the pandemic, and that people wanted to support him.

"We make people happy by what we do so we continued to do it, we were flexible, we were on our toes, we changed the rules all the time, and because of this we stayed in business," said Cohen.

Tatum said the biggest hurdle now is re-educating the public on how to deal with Covid now that it's no longer a public health emergency.