The coronavirus outbreak is changing how every business, government and nonprofit organization operates.

Some have seen their operations expand; many have been severely limited or, as with bars, restaurants, salons and other public-facing businesses, have shut down entirely.

Here are a few examples that illustrate just how rapidly conditions are changing throughout Northeast Ohio:

Helping hospitals navigate

ReLink Medical in Twinsburg Township already had planned to hire about 19 people in 2020, and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We are hiring as fast as we can,” president and CEO Jeff Dalton said of the company, which currently employs 49.

ReLink Medical helps health care providers in the eastern half of United States sell, recycle or otherwise safely discard out-of-service hospital equipment. He said reLink has been busier than ever helping hospitals clear out old equipment to make way for an influx of COVID-19 patients, and then helping facilities find what they need, like ventilators, cots, beds and more.

One thing reLink is emphasizing in the market right now is to make sure pricing remains “fair and attainable,” he said. “This is a much bigger problem than trying to make a couple of extra bucks on some ventilators,” Dalton said.

At play

Orders “skyrocketed” at rotational molder Simplay3 Co. in Streetsboro over the weekend of March 14 and 15, said Brian McDonald, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. He attributes that to children being at home and parents needing something to keep them occupied. Simplay3’s toys are available through a number of online retailers that can ship direct to customers’ homes. Most of the toys being ordered are the company’s “activity toys,” McDonald said, like its climbers or teeter totters.

McDonald said Simplay3 already had built up its inventory in anticipation of a strong selling time for these products regardless, but it planned to ramp up production. The company was practicing social distancing in its manufacturing facilities and was allowing some office workers to work from home.

Rising to the occasion

The rush of customers buying hand sanitizers and other items as part of sheltering in place during the pandemic has caused Discount Drug Mart Inc. of Medina to start trying to fill 250 temporary positions.

The company said it has multiple positions available at its 76 stores throughout Ohio. Employee-owned Discount Drug Mart said the jobs may interest people who are out of work due to restaurant closings or students home from college.

John Gans, president of Discount Drug Mart, said that in 45 years with the company, he has never seen anything like the demands put on the company’s 4,000 employees.

“As soon as we saw toilet paper and hand sanitizer fly off the shelves, our buyers immediately placed extra orders with our suppliers,” Gans said. “It was like dealing with our version of the Christmas rush without having the time to prepare for it.”

Looking forward on Thursday, March 19, he said he viewed future deliveries as a crapshoot, because manufacturers are straining to keep up with demand. Gans declined to say how much sales climbed, though he likened the situation to the holiday season.

Discount Drug Mart gave workers in its Medina warehouses overtime and assigned some of its office, administrative and supervisory personnel to other jobs within its supply chain or stores.

On the drug store side of Discount Drug Mart, Jason Briscoe, director of pharmacy operations, said that “every facet of the operations has been intensified in this crisis, from phone calls with questions to helping customers find something in the over-the-counter department.” Some of the increased activity came from people ordering prescription refills in advance.

“Our pharmacists work hard to strike the right balance when determining to fill maintenance medications early and for an extended-day supply,” Briscoe said, “as we have seen plenty of patients proactively ‘order ahead’ their prescription refills.”

Gans said the company set aside some of its sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer to service its own operation, but tapped its stockpile to help out when several Medina County police departments reported they were having trouble finding sanitizing wipes to disinfect their cruisers. The company provided 425 containers to them.

He said employees at every level rose to the occasion, from store personnel who had to experience complaints from customers about why they couldn’t even get toilet paper or hand sanitizer, to the warehouse staff who were pulling orders and office staff helping where needed.

Keep talking

Amy Castelli, the owner of Castelli Media Group of Cleveland, said the appetite of the media for commentary from her clients from Discount Drug Mart to Millennia Hospitality Group created an incredibly different change of pace for her business.

“We’ve been setting up six interviews a day for clients,” Castelli said. “Normally it’s about six over a couple of weeks. And we don’t have to push a story like we usually do.” Moreover, the former TV news reporter and anchor said she is gratified that her clients are in positions to help the media cover the story “because these are stories that need to be told on topics such as how doctors tell patients they need to delay elective surgery or coping with fear in this pandemic.”

Castelli, who has worked from her west suburban home for 15 years, said people new to working at home will need to take steps to retain the social contact they would have had in their company’s offices.

“Try to use Skype or Zoom,” she said, to keep in contact when normal means of shop talk are not available.

Sales are higher

As many Ohio businesses and offices closed to the public last week, not only are medical marijuana dispensaries staying open — state regulators consider them as essential as pharmacies — they seem to be enjoying an uptick in sales as patients stock up on supplies.

For an industry that so far has seen underwhelming sales since those began about 15 months ago, coming up shy of comparable medical markets like Pennsylvania, that’s a welcomed development. One marijuana retailer with five Ohio dispensaries told Crain’s their typical customer traffic last week at least doubled. Total orders have been growing as well. Comparable trends are being reported in other pockets of the state and across the country as a whole in both medical and recreational markets. Some say total traffic is down, but orders per customer are increasing.

The view from Cuyahoga Falls

Just north of Akron, Cuyahoga Falls is feeling the pain like all others in terms of restaurants, bars and other places shutting down.

“We’re heavy on the entertainment districts, so it’s a big hit obviously,” Mayor Don Walters said. “Not only does it kill the commerce, but those employees don’t get a paycheck. … It hurts,” he added.

But at least in Cuyahoga Falls there is one thing to soften the blow and possibly even provide jobs to some of those who are now laid off: the local Purell factory.

That’s humming overtime and running 24-7, Walters said, with reports the company is looking hard for new employees circulating around town. They’re true, too.

Akron-based GOJO Industries, which owns and makes Purell, has said it’s expanding its capacity as quickly as it can, in Cuyahoga Falls and Wooster, as consumers keep store shelves empty of the popular hand sanitizer.

The company said via a statement March 17 that it “continues to actively hire for a variety of full and part-time roles” and advised applicants to visit the company’s career website at to view specific opportunities and to apply online. For temporary or part-time jobs, GOJO said applicants must work through one of two agencies: Integrity Staffing at 330-929-3700 and Aerotek Staffing at 330-983-1075.

That’s bound to mean more work in Cuyahoga Falls, which could help soften the loss of paychecks elsewhere, Walters said. About 1,000 workers staff the Purell plant in his town, Walters said.

Ramping up production will not only help buoy the city’s tax base, but will also increase direct revenue for the city, Walters said, because Cuyahoga Falls sells GOJO the water it uses to make Purell. Cuyahoga Falls is known for its high-quality water and Purell demands just that, he said.

“They’re a huge, huge customer,” Walters said. “We treat our own water and it’s very high-quality, but if there’s even a minute change in it, they know before us.”

Poll position

In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak county boards of election scrambled to recruit replacements for senior poll workers who decided to heed warnings by the Ohio Department of Health to avoid large public gatherings.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office announced that after a call for replacement workers, more than 2,000 people signed on in the days leading up to the March 17 election.

Those poll workers and the rest of the state then spent the 24 hour lead-up to election day monitoring the conflicting announcements that voting was canceled and then back on again. The definitive decision came in around 1 a.m. on the day of the primary that all voting in the state was canceled.

The Ohio Supreme Court in late March is set to hear arguments about a new date for the election, when poll workers will most likely be called on again.

Things are getting hairy

Dino Palmieri said hearing from family in Italy and following news from there shaped his decision to close the 10 Dino Palmieri Hair Salon stores through April effective on Tuesday, March 17, ahead of the state order for barbers and hair salons to close.

“I thought about it all weekend,” Palmieri said, because he knew from family in Italy how severe the coronavirus outbreak would become. “I finally decided based on whether I would want my children working at this time as closely with the general public as we do. It became a question of wealth or health. We chose health.”

Telling his 180 employees that they would be without work for weeks was tough, but he said he told them it was a plan to make it through the crisis and come back stronger.

Asked how much the shutdown will cost him, Palmieri asked, “My God” and after a pause asked, “Do you put beauty before health? You cannot.”

However, he worries people might not take coronavirus as seriously as they might.

“I already know that people are asking for personal visits at their homes by calling our people directly,” Palmieri said. “I recommend against it. It’s not worth putting their health at risk because of the seriousness of the disease. People can live with gray hair or long hair but might not live if they catch this.”

Many of Palmieri’s salons are in enclosed shopping malls. He said he thinks it is a mistake not to close the malls as well.

Inside those increasingly people-less buildings

Operators of Parkland Center II, a high-end office building in Independence, got an early taste of pandemic-coping on Thursday, March 12.

After an employee at one of the businesses housed in the structure tested positive for COVID-19, the company shut down for cleaning but Brad Coven, a partner at the Lee & Associates real estate firm in Pepper Pike, had to manage next steps at the five-floor structure.

“We closed the building for cleaning for 24 hours,” Coven said. “It reopened for business the next day.”

However, some differences remain at the 20-year-old building that may be in place for a long time. Dispensers for hand sanitizer were added near the elevator bank at each floor. Until the crisis passes, the fitness center and conference room that serve the Park Center II and the other two office buildings in the complex are closed.

As work-at-home policies became the order of the day for many companies in office buildings in the week since, the settings are quieter, but the precautions will remain.

David Browning, managing director of CBRE’s Cleveland office, said third-party property managers walk a fine line between what they recommend and what the standards are for different building owners with different philosophies.

In the past, there have been government mandated legal sanitation standards for medical and food facilities, but brokerages and trade groups developed their own practices for office buildings.