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Pet Exchange manager Michael Amie talks with customer Debbie Kholer and her Tibetan terrier Harlee on Thursday, the day before Gov. Kemp’s shelter in place rule began.

Sweet Pea and Augie were among the last pooches that are likely to get a grooming and hygiene treatment for some time to come at the Pet Exchange, 2465 Demere Road, St. Simons Island.

The pug and the recue mutt arrived right on time at midmorning Thursday for their monthly grooming at the shop, which also offers niche dog foods, pooch treats, and an assortment of canine accessories.

With Gov. Kemp’s new shelter-in-place order set to take effect Friday, store manager Michael Amie figured the shop’s dog grooming service might be a luxury pet owners will have to do without for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is the last day for dog grooming,” Amie said.

Otherwise, Amie expects Pet Exchange will continue to offer the essentials that pet owners need. They have checked with other states under statewide shelter-in-place decrees and stores catering to people’s animal family members seem to be making the cut, Florida and Massachusetts among them, he said.

“We’re still essential,” he said.

“I feel like there’s a lot of people depending on us,” employee Kadie Rogers added

For protection of customers and employees, Pet Exchange will likely soon begin offering an outdoor service, reducing the chance for contact and exposure to coronavirus for both employees and customers.

“We’re going to start serving curbside,” Amie said. “You can call and tell us what you want, and we’ll bring it out for you.”

For every company whose services have been deemed essential, many more have closed their doors altogether as the consequences of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic continues to grow more dire still. Georgia unemployment claims reached an all-time high during the week of March 22-28, with a staggering 133,820 out-of-work Georgians applying for assistance, according to state Department of Labor figures released Thursday.

That figure represents an 1,102 percent increase over the previous week, during which the 12,140 unemployment claims for the week ending March 28 were higher than anything filed during the 2008-09 recession, according to the Department of Labor. The department of labor paid out $14.6 million in unemployment benefits to 64,002 Georgians that week.

In Glynn County, folks in the service industry who still can, still work. Jonathan Hendry’s two-man Down to Earth company plans to be out on the job Friday, servicing his loyal customers like always. Hendry and assistant Hubert Best have been serving his native St. Simons Island and elsewhere in the Golden Isles for more than 20 years.

The outside work keeps contact with customers to a minimum and the need to prevent high overgrowth from overtaking a lawn is essential for many.

Hendry does not anticipate being deemed nonessential.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed and moving forward,” Hendry said. “That’s all I can do. It’s a busy time of year. Oak blooms (pollen) are falling, oak leaves are falling and piling up everywhere. We haven’t faltered. We’re just plugging along doing the best we can.”

At Peachtree Pest Control, the fight continues to keep multi-legged creepy-crawlies and pesky rodents out of local households, said Pat Evans, branch manager of the company’s Brunswick office. Rodents in particular consider full dumpsters in business district to be prime feeding grounds, he said. With a dearth of businesses closed and those dumpsters empty, Peachtree and other pest control services are working to keep those dirty rats from finding a new food source in nearby neighborhoods, he said.

Peachtree employees on Thursday distributed letters for each employee to carry on the job, stating that the carrier is an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Worker” as recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Our main concern is rodents from the businesses closing and those empty dumpsters,” Evans said. “We’re trying to keep those out of households.”

The company has made several adjustments to the new pandemic protocols, Evans said. Customers are presently not allowed in the company’s office, 3231 Cypress Mill Road, which is being disinfected daily. Only a skeletal crew works in the office at present anyway, he said.

The men and women in the frontlines of the pest control company’s operation either receive their orders outside in the parking lot or take them by phone, he said. Work trucks are disinfected daily. Barring pest emergencies, technicians are conducting perimeter spraying outside of homes rather than going inside.

“We’re downloading workers’ orders by phone or they’re just pulling up in the parking lot,” Evans said. “Most of our pest control calls, unless their having more serious issues, we’re just doing outside spraying to keep them from going inside.”

At Pet Exchange, Sweet Pea and Augie’s owners picked them up from what could be the pooches’ last grooming for some time. Debbie Kohler of St. Simons Island was just leaving the shop with Harlee, her Tibetan terrier. Getting her dog the right food for her specific diet is essential, she said.

“Even if they don’t let me groom her, I have to get her food,” said Kohler, wearing a blue homemade mask. “It’s really important for us to have a place to go to get what we need. And I’m not just going to horde the food so that other people can’t get what they need for their animals.”

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