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Aerial picture show the empty parking lots at Park City Center Friday, March 20, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This view is looking east from west of Plaza Blvd.

The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted lives around the world in every way imaginable.

Part of the impact is economic. With society shutting down and businesses shutting their doors, COVID-19 also has overturned the lives, jobs and incomes of thousands of Lancaster County residents.

How many COVID-19 cases are in Pa.? 1,156 new ones Wednesday

To get a sense of those financial effects, LNP | LancasterOnline spoke with local residents in a variety of occupations.

Here are their stories. This story will be updated with new interviews as we receive them. If you've been impacted by the shutdown and would like to tell your story, please email Chad Umble at cumble@lnpnews.com

'It's all very different now,' says personal care assistant

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Marcia Shearer, a Lancaster Township resident who works as a personal care assistant. 

As much as she would like to limit her grocery shopping trips, Marcia Shearer finds herself often having to go back to the store. 

As a personal care assistant with Independent Living Services, the 44-year-old Lancaster Township resident helps people with disabilities or medical issues live on their own by assisting them with daily tasks such as cleaning, cooking, bathing and shopping.

Lately, she’s been doing the grocery shopping trips by herself since clients with underlying health issues stay home. And on some of those trips, she’s run into some difficulties.

“It’s a little different now for me having to do shopping with clients with shortage of basic essentials in store,” she said. “All I’m trying to do is shop for my client, for their basic necessities.”

During one recent trip, she was discouraged when a woman filled her own cart with all but one of the packs of toilet paper on the shelf, and then complained as she walked away about there be a limit on how much you can buy.

“It feels like crap when we can’t do our job properly,” she said, noting that she recently had to visit three stores to get everything on one client’s list.

Shearer, who also works part time at Brereton Manor, says the measures there to keep residents safe have been accepted as necessary, even as they change the mood of the small retirement home in rural Manor Township. For example, dinner is now served in shifts, with each person sitting at a separate table.

 “It was very strange. It was so eerie. Everybody was so quiet,” she said. “We’re all used to sitting there and eating as a family. It’s very different now.”

-- Chad Umble, Staff Writer


School nurse looking for another job

Marcy Yeich is restless to get to work.

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Ken and Marcia Yeich of New Holland. 

A registered nurse with 30 years’ experience, Yeich has been busily looking for something new since Manheim Township School District schools closed. While she is still employed there and continues to be paid by the district, Yeich is already looking for something temporary.

“I’m not afraid about being out in the workforce, I’m more concerned about finding work,” she said. “I’m wanting to go back out there and go back to work.”

The 51-year-old New Holland resident says she has been applying for all kinds of jobs, including at hospitals, retirement communities and pharmacies.

In the meantime, she’s spending her time at home getting ahead on the online courses she’s been taking through Millersville University for her bachelor’s degree in nursing. In one week, she’s gone through about three weeks’ worth of lessons, including work on a course in informatics, the management of patient health data.  

Her husband, Ken, is also at home since he was laid off from his job at Glen-Gery, a brickmaker with a plant in Shoemakersville. He has applied for unemployment.

The Yeichs own their own home and Marcy says coming up with the mortgage and car payments could become a stretch in the future, especially with hefty school tuition bill coming due.

But Yeich says many people she knows are already in danger of falling behind.

 “With many people not being able to pay (their mortgages), I definitely see many houses going up for sale in the future,” she said.

CORRECTION: This article was updated to reflect that Yeich is still employed at Manheim Township School District and the district continues to pay her.  

-- Chad Umble, Staff Writer


Out-of-work barber worries about the long term

Sapinna Verden imagines some of her customers are probably going to try to cut their own hair. 

Sapinna Verden

Sapinna Verden, a Millersville resident who has spent 26 years as a hairstylist. 

“They’ll screw it up,” she says.

At the same time, she wonders if her business will bounce back if people get used to doing their own hair at home, or remain leery about venturing out when the barber shop she works at in East Petersburg reopens.

“I have anxiety big time. I’m in an industry where I depend on people,” said Verden, a 47-year old Millersville resident who has been a hairstylist for 26 years.

With her shop shut down, Verden is spending her days with her 17-year-old daughter, Alexis, whose school is closed, and her husband, Elton, whose work at his own dental lab dried up after dental offices closed.

Verden says she’s been trying to appreciate the chance to spend more time with her family while making good use of her unexpected free time.

“My house is immaculately spotless. My house is usually spotless, but it is even more spotless,” she said, noting that she even had a chance to clean and organize some closets.

And while Verden says doesn’t have immediate financial concerns for her family, she worries about a suddenly uncertain future

“We do have some savings but if we go out too far, we’re going to be in trouble ourselves,” she said.

-- Chad Umble, Staff Writer


Waitress juggles young children, loss of job

At home with her two young sons since the Red Robin restaurant where she worked closed, Jennifer Bell has been focused on keeping her small household together both financially and mentally.  

“It’s nerve wracking -- don’t get me wrong -- but as a mom I have to stay strong for my kids,” said the 29-year-old single mom to 8-year-old Trey and Kaiden, who will soon be two years old.

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Jennifer Bell with her boyfriend Brandon Bowers. 

As a waitress at the Red Robin in East Lampeter Township, Bell said she could expect to make around $3,000 a month, an amount that could easily cover her roughly $2,000 monthly expenses, including rent and car payments.

While the Ephrata resident has filed for unemployment benefits, Bell said she expects to only get around $1,400 a month, not enough to cover her monthly expenses, let alone any the cost of any needed repairs identified in a looming car inspection. Bell says she has “a little cushion” financially, but not enough to get her through an extended layoff.

“Eventually I’m going to run out of money if this keeps up,” she said.

Bell says she has barely left her apartment since she’s been home, saying she’s been trying to be extra frugal as she tries to convey the situation to her 8-year-old, who spends time coloring, playing video games and doing some school lessons on a tablet.

“I’m ready for all this to be over. I want my kids to go back to school,” she said. “Everything is just slowly crashing, and I’m like, ‘No. Let’s get back to normal life.’”

Bell has a good support system, including parents in New Holland and her boyfriend Brandon Bowers, who lives in Millersville. Yet Bowers, who was a cook at Miller’s Ale House in Lancaster, also lost his job when restaurants were ordered to close to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Alone most days with her two sons, Bell says she has been trying to count her blessings, knowing there are many people who are suddenly in even more precarious financial situations.

“If this doesn’t end in the next couple weeks, this could be really bad,” she said. “What’s going to happen when people start running out of money? You can’t just kick everybody out of their houses. What are you going to do? Everybody can’t just file for food stamps.”

-- Chad Umble, Staff Writer


Personal trainer bulks up online sessions

Troy Bruchwalski and his wife Katherine will never forget the events of Sunday, March 15.

In the span of 24 hours, the newlyweds lost all four jobs they held, each erased by the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Troy Bruchwalski, a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, is taking his business online.

Both were acting in the show “Grumpy Old Men” at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, which closed prematurely. Bruchwalski, who’s also a certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, lost a new job at a local gym that he was to start the next day. And his wife lost her waitress job.

The job losses came one week after they moved here following three years of “living out of suitcases” as they landed acting jobs “all over,” choosing to make this community their permanent home after working at the Dutch Apple off and on for the past decade.

“It’s been a whirlwind. But it’s not just us. It’s (affecting) the whole world right now,” said Bruchwalski said.

So the Bruchwalskis are switching to Plan B – working remotely.

His full time, salaried job at the gym was to include developing an app for online fitness classes and being a personal trainer. Instead, he’s pouring all his energy into developing an online fitness training business for himself. She’s started teaching English to Chinese students online.

“We’re both firm believers that we have to adjust and move forward,” said Bruchwalski. “I think it’s important to always try to be optimistic and think everything’s going to be an opportunity in the end. We’ll get through it together.”

Connecting with clients via Google Hangouts, Bruchwalski leads up to 10 clients at a time through workouts, and leading larger classes over Zoom, the technology allows him to see each client individually and them to all see him. Sometimes Bruchwalski, 29, coaches while his wife, 36, demonstrates.

But improved physical health isn’t the only benefit of the sessions.

“On top of the workout, we get to check in and see how everybody is doing,” said Bruchwalski. “That social aspect has been extremely helpful when we’re all spending time being isolated from each other.”

-- Tim Mekeel, Staff Writer


Musician trying to make it through with fewer gigs

Maria Corley

Maria Corley

Like many professional musicians, pianist Maria Corley makes her living by working several jobs.

Corley, who holds a master’s degree and doctorate from Julliard, is a church musician, a piano teacher, a concert soloist and a collaborative pianist (accompanist).

But the COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted that balance. A concert got canceled and some of her students dropped out. Her church employer – she’s its organist and choir director -- is paying her in full for a couple weeks but the long-term picture is unclear. That’s huge, as it accounts for slightly over half of her income.

“It’s going to be interesting, to say the least, especially if it goes on for more than a few weeks and especially if the church feels like they have to scale back what they’re able to pay me. We’re supposed to be creative people. I guess we’re just forced to be more creative,” she said.

Corley is doing just that by transitioning her private piano students from in-person lessons to online lessons, though not every student was willing to make the changeover. The switch was a learning experience for both student and teacher.

“I have some online students that I started teaching (Tuesday). It went pretty well. It’s a little bit awkward but not as awkward as I thought it would be,” she said.

The Rohrerstown resident and mother of two also is exploring the possibility of replacing some of her lost income by doing more composing, though that route would hardly be a quick solution. She also has some retirement savings she could tap.

But Corley, 54, hopes that some combination of music-related work and federal relief legislation proves sufficient, because some job options are just not feasible anymore.

“At this stage in my life, it’s not like I can get hired by Amazon and lift boxes all day. I’d end up disabled in some way because I have a back problem,” she said.

Corley also has her Christian faith to lean on. That helps her contain any feelings of anxiety.

“I can’t do anything but my try my best to stay afloat and leave the rest up to God -- just put the rest in God’s hands,” said Corley.

-- Tim Mekeel, Staff Writer


Real estate agent adjusting to virtual home sales 

In the past, Realtor Louis Jean gave his clients the option of using remote services such as video conferencing, electronic signatures and video tours of properties as a convenience.

Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak accelerating, it’s become a necessity.

“You’ve got to use your creativity. You’ve got to do things when conditions change. Otherwise, if you don’t adapt, you won’t make it. That’s what I’m seeing with what’s happening now,” said Jean, 49, of East Lampeter Township.

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Realtor Louis Jean at work in his home office.

Using technological tools comes easily for Jean. Up until 2018, he spent his career in information technology, rising to director of IT infrastructure and architecture for an aerospace company, Triumph Group, in Berwyn, Chester County.

Working remotely was routine, as Jean led meetings of a team of managers across the country and around the world who were connected by video conferencing and other technology.

Then he decided to scratch his lifelong itch to get into real estate. The father of five earned his real estate license and joined the region’s largest realty firm, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty, a year ago.

In the early days of the outbreak, Jean said his business has experienced only “a little downtick.” It’s still a seller’s market, interest rates remain low and attractive properties continue to draw multiple offers.

“We won’t really know the story until a couple weeks out. … Time will tell,” said Jean.

In the meantime, Jean is among many Realtors using technology to stay in operation while following the instructions of health officials to practice social distancing (deliberately increasing the physical space between people) and to avoid even modest-sized gatherings. 

All of his showings and open houses, he said, now are done remotely. He's working entirely from his home office.

But what if a client insists on meeting face to face? How can Realtors safely handle a settlement, for instance?

(Jean spoke with LNP | LancasterOnline before Gov. Tom Wolf's order to close non-life-sustaining businesses, such as real estate offices and settlement/title offices. The settlement/title industry is seeking a waiver that would exempt them.)

Instead of having both buyers and sellers in one conference room, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale puts the buyers and their representatives in one conference room, where they can comfortably spread out, and the sellers and their reps in another.

No longer does everyone sign documents by passing a pen around. Each person gets their own pen. And a fresh box of pens is opened for each settlement.

“It gives people comfort that we’re doing everything we can to minimize the risk of getting (the virus) or passing it along,” said Jean.

-- Tim Mekeel, Staff Writer


Bartender biding his time 

Since he’s no longer bartending at The Belvedere Inn, Taylor Merrill has been doing projects around his house, going for hikes, and working on a sketch comedy show.

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Taylor Merrill, who had worked as a bartender at The Belveder Inn, went for a hike during the first week of his layoff. 

But for the 39-year-old Lancaster resident, his suddenly abundant free time comes with worries about how long he could finance even a frugal lifestyle without income from a job.

“I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, but I don’t have a huge reserve,” Merrill said. “I’m OK for a little bit but if this hits the two-month mark, I’m going to be scared.”

Merrill, who says his monthly expenses are around $1,800, applied for unemployment, but isn’t sure how much he’ll get, and whether it will keep him from having to dip into his savings.

“I’m just really hoping this is for a short little while,” he said.

As he waits to be able to go back to work, Merrill said he is being frugal with his spending, trying to stay off social media and making more meals at home.

“I cook like I’m a grandmother. I have a freezer full of prepared foods,” he said.

Merrill, who did stand-up comedy around Lancaster ten years ago, said the unexpected layoff has him working once again on a sketch comedy show, Hooey Hogwash, for which he previously posted some short episodes on YouTube, including one where he gets his driver’s license photo taken as a character from the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”

“It’s weird having so much free time,” he said.

-- Chad Umble, Staff Writer


Photographer looks to rebound 

The former owner of Senorita Burrita restaurant in Lancaster city, Jen Foster worked at a commercial photography studio before becoming an independent operator with her own roster of clients, including Lancaster restaurants and nonprofit organizations.

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Jen Foster

She also created portraits and occasionally photographed weddings for friends.

But all that suddenly dried up.

“I worked up until Friday of last week and then noticed that all of my industry canceled out until further notice,” Foster said. “It is weird to go from feeling like you’re succeeding in what you do to waking up the next day to realize you have nothing to rely on.”

With clients likely focused on matters other than photography when things become more normal, Foster said she is preparing for an extended slowdown.

“For now I’m just trying to brace myself a little bit. I probably won’t get back into the swing of things for two months,” she said.

Foster, who lives near Musser Park in Lancaster city, says she is frugal and has enough savings to get her through a slow period. And while she’s been dealt a blow, she’s confident about her own proclivity to rebound from adversity, as well as Lancaster’s prospects for bouncing back.

 “I do have confidence about our community. Specifically, we take care of each other, and look out for each other,” she said. ““In the end, I feel like this will make us thankful for our jobs and our community.”

-- Chad Umble, Staff Writer

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