As I write this column, I'm the only person here at the Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, office of Crain Communications, which is supposed to house most of the staff members of Rubber & Plastics News and our sister publication, Tire Business.
I'm sitting here in the conference room and it's a beautiful, sunny fall day outside. I can see the Cuyahoga River lazily flowing by, traffic is running smoothly on Route 8 above and, to tell the truth, I'd much rather be out playing a late season round of golf.
If I didn't know better, I'd say everything appeared normal.
But I do know better. If things were normal, we'd have a number of staff people here putting the finishing touches on our next print issue.
In fact, the only reason I'm here is I had to introduce a speaker during a live session of our virtual International Silicone Conference, and handle the Q&A session at the end of the presentation. For that, I trust the wireless internet at the office more than at my home.
Like many of you, for the most part I've been stationed at the dining room table at home, with our team doing their part from their homes. We're lucky in that what we can do is more conducive to working at home than those who work in the manufacturing, distribution and other operations so vital to the tire and rubber industry.
Early on, when many large-scale facilities started coming back on stream after extended shutdowns, any hint of a positive COVID-19 test sent shock waves through the operations. There was safety protocol in place designed to first and foremost keep workers safe, but also to help firms keep the virus from spreading and continue operating.
For the most part, the companies we talk with still operate in that manner. As the months have gone by, though, there also is a bit of a feeling of inevitability setting in—the thought that when you have a large number of people in a work force, it's not a matter of if, but when, you will be faced with dealing with positive cases. This is particularly true when you can't control their environment outside of work.
Thankfully, the people we've talked with haven't had people facing the most dire health consequences. But as cases spike again, we realize nothing is normal yet—and it is imperative that we keep our guard up.