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The Ethics of Staying Open During COVID19

I got an e-mail from someone who shut down their wash and fold service, because of the Corona Virus and thinks everyone else should shut their wash and fold service down too during this time. He had some valid points and here is my response:

Thanks for the e-mail. I have conflicting thoughts about all of this and I respect those who have shut down their wash and fold. It’s a personal choice for both employees and operators.

I think about laundromats and should they be shut down or is society better off with them there? If every laundromat is shut down, how would folks get all the schmutz off their clothes? Maybe use a bathtub? Where are they going to dry their clothes? Many live in small apartments and that might not be feasible. I know when I get home from the grocery store, I toss my clothes into the washing machine right away.

So maybe the answer is we have laundromats go unattended? But I think unattended laundromats can pose a significant health risk, because people often don’t follow social distancing on their own, especially in certain socio-economic groups and machines aren’t cleaned as often. A Florida news station went into such a laundromat and counted 52 people in there and no one was paying attention to social distancing. A lot of places can only afford an attendant by offering wash and fold. And there are numerous residents, medical, government, and non profit organizations that need laundry done and don’t want to go into a laundromat or shared space, do they send their employees over to the laundromat to do laundry? Or would they be better off doing a Curbside Drop off or contactless pickup?

The government considers laundromats an essential business. Is that because of lobbying efforts? Or is that because we really are important. I believe the latter. But I also think we need to do things responsibly and not business as usual. We have implemented a lot of safety procedures such as masks, gloves, no shaking of clothes (per CDC guidelines), sanitizing machines, washing hands, etc.

A lot of places do wash and fold and pickup & delivery and I think sharing ideas on how to do contactless laundry pickups and curbside drop offs will make things safer than they currently are across the country, so I see it as a net positive. But if an employee or owner is not comfortable with it, then there is no pushing, just respect for their decision.

I see every day we are a net positive, helping folks keeping clean and sanitary. We are on the front lines here. There’s no right answer. At the end of the day it’s an individual choice.

There are very legitimate reasons to both do wash and fold and not do wash and fold. I personally believe we are doing good for society, but I see the other side of the equation too.