Immigrant Stories: Innocent Onwubiko on Protective Measures, Caution and Alternative Pathways During COVID-19Feb 10, 2021 08:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo
A business’s’ response to COVID-19 has an immense impact on its continuing success or demise. Innocent Onwubiko, a United States health professional, uses technology and a multi-tiered strategy to protect his clients, staff, and business during COVID. He shares his precautionary measures and advice for Black people on the front lines of the pandemic.
This Nigeria native opened his home healthcare business in 2003. He continues developing his business by staying up-to-date with the state, local, and federal regulations, marketing to private individuals and insurance companies, and adapting to the changes brought by the pandemic. Onwubiko describes COVID’s immediate impact on his business:
“Before COVID-19 we worked in office spaces, and our phones were ringing off the hook. Right at the start of COVID-19, we worked remotely. When we came back to the office, we had already changed from a landline to a computer-based system...everybody takes calls on their desktop. So it kind of makes the environment a little bit solemn...it takes away the feeling that you are working with others.”
To exercise COVID caution and continue conducting business ethically, Onwubiko utilizes protective technology. “We have an automated temperature check at the doors and we are constantly sanitizing,” he says.
Onwubiko optimized the safety of his clients and staff in different stages. He currently combines social distancing, digital communication, and innovative sanitizing. In describing his process, Onwubiko says:
“We initially asked 85% of our workers to work from home. 15% stayed in the office and held the office together.
When we started coming back gradually, each person had their own enclosed area, either as an office space or a glass cubicle space that reaches all the way to the ceiling, so when you are at work you don't have that much interaction with others.
We stopped having meetings in a conference room style and we switched to Zoom calls. We also started another software to continue to communicate amongst each other. The safety of employees and other people has always been a priority over everything else we are doing.
We are not relenting. We just ordered a chunnel, which is like a tunnel that you put in the door. It sprays disinfectant that works with killing viruses. People go through it like a tunnel before they go into the building. We hope that will also help in terms of mitigating the virus.”
This month, the American Public Media Research Lab reported that Black and Indigenous communities have the highest COVID-related death rates in the United States. Owunbiko explains the vulnerabilities of people of color during COVID:
“Usually, people of color do work jobs that require physical contact with other people. For example, most of the people working at the retirement homes are Black…we actually are the ambulance drivers, the bus drivers, we remove trash...It’s almost like we are soldiers at the war front versus people in the street. Most can die in a war situation but most of the time the soldiers die more than the regular population.”
To improve the negative death rate, Owunbiko suggests communities of color should work towards obtaining enough personal protective equipment and use masks that provide the highest level of protection.
With over 2 million COVID-related deaths worldwide, refusing to use precaution is playing Russian roulette, not only with one’s own life but also with others who come in contact. Vaccines have been introduced, but as the virus continues to mutate and cures remain uncertain, we must join in to stop the spread, which includes wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands regularly. The battle is not yet over, and we must keep fighting.
This article has been made possible by the Independence Public Media Foundation.
Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Visit her storytelling brand at www.asieduasimprint.blog, and connect with her creative agency on Instagram: @chitheagency.