While waiting in the service area at Toyota of Kirkland last week, Tara King Whiteside had a cup of coffee and some cookies baked on-site. Then she visited a chiropractor’s office, a physical therapist’s office and a massage clinic in her suburban ?Seattle community.
Whiteside, 43, is now self-quarantined in a studio apartment, fearful she may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus. Her service appointment came a day before a Toyota of Kirkland employee learned of his infection with the virus and three days before the store temporarily closed for a deep cleaning.
Experiences such as Whiteside’s illustrate how uncertainty and worry — in some instances bordering on panic — around coronavirus are putting dealerships and other retailers in a difficult position. They are told to follow government guidelines for healthy practices, but recommendations are sometimes vague or don’t do enough to calm patients, employees or customers.
That’s particularly true in the Seattle area, which has reported the most coronavirus cases and deaths in the U.S. thus far. Toyota of Kirkland opted for the temporary shutdown Thursday, March 5, after social media backlash from some customers and even a supposed employee who took to Reddit to voice concerns that the store remained open after the diagnosis of a co-worker March 3.
After learning about her possible exposure through those posts, Whiteside wants to know whether she had contact with the infected employee. Lacking a specific answer after multiple queries to the dealership, and with her asthma flaring up, she quarantined herself in a short-term rental last week rather than risk spreading the virus to family members, including a daughter with a compromised immune system.
“I don’t understand why the dealership can’t do that,” Whiteside told Automotive News. “I get it: It’s like a liability thing, but I’m also just trying to help protect our community.”