Two Hills Studio COVID-19 Timeline
- 3.23.20 – City of Austin and County of Travis announced local “STAY HOME – WORK SAFE order” effective 11:59p 3.24.20; Two Hills Studio was not considered essential and would therefore need to close.
- 3.25.20 – Two Hills Studio begins temporary closure and furloughs all production staff.
- 3.31.20 – Texas Governor issues Executive Order No.GA-14 “Implementing Essential Services And Activities Protocols”, which, among other activities, allows construction activities during this emergency declaration.
- 3.31.20 – Two Hills Studio furloughs remaining staff: Design Associate, President.
- 4.2.20 – City of Austin issues “Supplemental Guidance Based on Executive Order No.GA-14” acknowledging local order superceded as relates to “All construction work permitted in the Governor’s March 31, 2020 Executive Order (No. GA-14)”. Nevertheless, activies of construction industry suppliers (which includes Two Hills Studio) are not directly addressed.
- 4.13.20 – City of Austin and County of Travis extend local “STAY HOME – WORK SAFE order” effective 11:59p 5.8.20
- 4.15.20 – Following deliberations and consultations, Two Hills Studio management surveys employees about willingness and readiness to resume onsite production.
- 4.16.20 – Decision is made by Two Hills Studio management to resume production on 4.20.20.
Two Hills Studio Comprehensive Justifications for Temporary Closure and April 20, 2020 Partial Reopening
Maybe you didn’t ask… but as we’ve proceeded diligently and methodically through these unprecedented times, documenting our actions and the reasons behind them just seems like a good idea!
Two Hill Studio remained closed between 4.2.20 and 4.20.20, even after Executive Order No.GA-14, for several reasons:
- Employees’ and their families’ safety.
- Need to minimize community spread by staying home.
- Uncertainty regarding Two Hills Studio status under Executive Order No.GA-14.
- Development of safe working protocols.
- Promise of federal and state funding support to make temporary closure tenable.
- Difficulty procuring hygiene-related supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, hand sanitizer, cloth masks, etc.
Ultimately, Two Hills Studio management decided to reopen 4.20.20 due to its ability to address or mitigate each of the above factors, along with the growing need to reengage with customer projects that were now continuing to advance. Our showroom will remain closed for the foreseeable future. Our approach to each closure factor is discussed below:
- Employees’ and their families’ safety – Two Hills Studio has about >1000 SF per employee, which will facilitate 6’ physical distancing. All production spaces are ‘open air’ with multiple large doors that will remain open to ensure critical air circulation that will minimize the ability of the virus to remain in viable suspension. Everyone will wear cloth masks unless performing activities requiring N95 (soldering galvanized steel, painting, etc). Handwashing will be required upon arrival, departure, and during both breaks and lunch.
- Need to minimize community spread by staying home – Employees will be required to remain onsite for the duration of their shift. Handwashing will be required upon arrival and departure.
- Uncertainty regarding Two Hills Studio status under Executive Order No.GA-14 – The order incorporates by reference US DHS Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response, Version 2.0 (March 28, 2020)”, which includes an “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” advisory list. Under “Commercial Facilities” are “Workers who support the supply chain of building materials from production through application/installation, including…fixtures…”, which would reasonably include Two Hills Studio’s operations. This interpretation, along with those and guidance issued by local law firms (Winstead Attorneys, Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody), the Home Builders Association of Greater Austin, and the Texas Association of Builders, further supports our decision.
- Development of safe working protocols – New work rules regarding physical distancing, mask wearing, and handwashing were developed in accordance with the “STAY HOME – WORK SAFE order” and “Construction Jobsite Guidelines” developed by the City of Austin.
- Promise of federal and state funding support to make temporary closure tenable – Two Hills Studio applied for both an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) advance and the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). We only just received a slightly reduced EIDL advance on 4.14.20, weeks after applying, and we have yet to see any funding through the PPP. We have had limited correspondence with our bank, the most recent being a request that they be left alone to process applications. Therefore, the potential for adequate federal funding to support to remain closed has evaporated as time passes and financial obligations build. Additionally, as all employees have been furloughed, we were looking to state unemployment insurance (UI), along with the CARES Act federal supplement, to maintain employees’ income. However, difficulties and delays in applying for UI resulted in a critical loss of earnings.
- Difficulty procuring hygiene-related supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, hand sanitizer, cloth masks, etc. – Now that our community, stores, and supply chains have begun to adapt to shelter-in-place, we are able to procure adequate supplies to reopen. The last piece of which is cloth masks, two of which are being provided to each employee at no cost.
While the decision to resume production during this pandemic has been difficult and fraught with risk, on balance it is in the best interest of Two Hills Studio – its employees and financial standing – and our clients – without whom… Thanks for your ongoing patience and accommodations. Stay healthy and safe!
Scott Gross, President