The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, reached pandemic status nearly a year ago. When we first wrote this blog, hundreds of new cases were springing up across the U.S., and most of them were in New York. Today, after what feels like 74 months of social distancing, civil unrest, and murder hornets, we’re seeing the vaccine roll out to high-priority demographics.
Yet over 200,000 new cases are identified daily. And as cases continue to spread throughout the U.S., many companies are reviewing their policies, processes, and procedures for the long term. Instead of short-term branch closures, we’re looking to long-term changes we can make. Many companies are switching permanently to remote work. Digital events are extremely popular and they may continue to be. At least we can all buy toilet paper again.
In times like these, credit unions can step up for their members while also keeping themselves safe. Here are a few Coronavirus safety and prevention tips for credit unions.
1. Provide masks
Many people are resistant to wearing masks. Still. Despite the loads of scientific evidence that confirms their efficacy at limiting the spread. Many people will attempt to enter your credit union without a mask. Maskless members put your credit union’s staff at risk, and it’s easier to deal with an anti-mask member than a COVID-19 outbreak.
Offering free masks at the entrance preempts many counterarguments. Nobody can “forget” their mask. Simple surgical masks are cheap and easy to get.
2. Set up hand sanitizing stations
All employees should wash their hands frequently. In fact, it’s estimated that frequent, proper handwashing could slow the spread of COVID-19 significantly. And especially with tellers handling so much cash, those hands are going to contact a lot of strange germs…
More importantly, branches should offer hand sanitizing stations. A little bottle of Purell here and there will help members look after their own health, too.
3. Eliminate coffee and snacks
If your branch provides free coffee, snacks, or candy, consider removing them during the outbreak. Communal foods are all well and good until a pandemic hits. But unfortunately, there are just too many people who still think that coughing into their hands is fine…
4. Strongly push eStatements and eNotices
Credit union statements, notices, and other member communications touch a lot of hands. They start in the credit union or outsourced facility, make their way through the mail, and finally end up in mailboxes.
eStatements and eNotices touch nothing. Plus, it saves you money, and it saves the planet trees. An email or two to your members about coronavirus safety could help your credit union convert members from paper to electronic statements.
Furthermore, outsourcing your credit unions statement, notice, and letter production will allow more of your employees to work from home during the outbreak.
5. Suggest online and mobile banking
Some members still prefer the in-branch experience, and who can blame them? But while COVID-19 spreads, credit unions would benefit from less traffic and person-to-person contact.
Email members to remind them to use online and mobile banking. To help out your less technologically-savvy members, create step-by-step walkthroughs for signing in, navigating the website, or using the app. Show people how to use remote deposit capture or other tools that minimize the need to visit the branch.
6. Let employees work from home
Not all employees need to be on premise to do their jobs effectively. Many staff who aren’t member-facing, such as IT personnel, should absolutely work remotely. Minimizing employee contact with potentially contagious staff and members will greatly reduce their chance of getting infected.
Additionally, if an employee feels sick, let them stay home. Now’s not the best time to take any chances. Find ways to support sick employees who stay home for the good of their communities.
7. Keep ATMs and other surfaces clean
You already keep your ATMs clean, but during an outbreak, a little extra vigilance can go a long way. Sanitize ATM touchpoints and keep it safe for members and non-member customers!
Furthermore, any frequently touched items, objects, and surfaces should get the same treatment. This includes desks, counters, pens, and door handles.
8. Install HEPA filters
Over the course of a day, many people will enter the branch, and masks won’t stop everything. The longer anyone stays in an enclosed space, the less effective the mask becomes at preventing COVID-19 particles from floating around the branch. Recirculated air especially needs constant filtration.
HEPA filters eliminate around 99.97% of airborne contaminants. Out West, where fires fill the skies with toxic smoke each summer, credit unions use HEPA filters to keep dangerous particulates out of the air. But those filters work with the COVID-19 virus as well. HEPA filters capture particles via four methods: sieving, impaction, interception, and diffusion. You can learn more about how these methods work here (and why they help to prevent the spread of the pandemic).
9. Revisit your pandemic plan
For most people, the Coronavirus isn’t too serious. It presents long-lasting flu-like symptoms, and many people experience only a very mild version of it. However, the duration is longer than the typical flu, and the mortality rate is at least an order of magnitude higher. Most concerning are the “long haul” symptoms, including long-term heart and lung damage even among asymptomatic carriers.
This winter is projected to be a difficult one. And an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Revisiting your credit union’s pandemic plan will ensure that you can continue operating and serving your members even if things get rough.
9. Provide economic relief
Many industries are seeing an immediate impact to their earnings. Particularly members who work in food service, events and performance, travel and tourism, and other industries are already experiencing a loss of income. Considering the large amount of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and who don’t have $400 for emergencies, short-term lending might be a prudent solution.
Credit unions can offer short-term lending to their distressed members to alleviate some of their struggle. (In fact, QCash’s CU-specific lending platform can offer members up to $1,000 for 18-month personal emergency loans at 6.25%!)
10. Suspend fees and other payments
By many economists’ projections, unemployment could reach between 20% and 30%. Many other industries are experiencing massive revenue losses. Your members who are struggling the most may have a hard time paying for account fees, overdraft fees, etc.
Continuing to charge fees, however small, may stretch your members farther than they can handle right now. This is an opportunity to build stronger relationships with your members by reducing their economic burden during this recession.
11. Promote cashless transactions
Paper money is already pretty dirty. You certainly wouldn’t want to put a handful of cash in your mouth. And now, more than ever, you really shouldn’t put it up your nose. In fact, if it weren’t already an obvious idea, we’d say you shouldn’t touch cash and then touch your face at all.
COVID-19 can live on some surfaces for days. If members are conducting cash transactions during a pandemic, there’s no telling how much of the virus will get exchanged with the money.
Simply put, cash can be a vector of transmission. Now’s a good time to promote cashless payments via digital wallets, credit cards, peer-to-peer (P2P) transfers, etc.
We’ll continue writing updates as they come. Subscribe to our blog to stay informed about credit union issues!