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Concrete Construction Amid the COVID-19 Virus

Three Chapter Members share their experiences.

In the concrete industry, each day we address challenges as professionals, educators, and students. It’s an essential part of our work.

COVID-19 has provided the greatest health challenge in over 100 years to our way of life and economic stability. The virus may be the most researched in history, with many infections showing no symptoms, and many resulting in life-threatening hospitalizations and fatalities. Adding to the complexity, Northern California has over a half-dozen strains of the virus.

To put things in perspective, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1920 caused up to 50 million fatalities worldwide and one-third of the Earth’s population (500 million people) was infected. This monster took its toll without the advanced technology in medicine and communications that we now have employed against COVID-19.

Lining up for masks in San Francisco in 1918.

Tom Fourre is a Quality Control Representative for CEMEX, USA. He’s been involved in the Chapter ACI Certification Program for over ten years, and is the program’s Co-Manager.

“We split up the CEMEX lab staff into those who could work from home, and those folks, including me, that needed to remain in the lab,” Tom noted. “The requirements for our drivers are masks, temperature checks, and social distancing. Everyone is following procedures as best they can. Our work is primarily outdoors, the safest environment to prevent spreading the virus. So far, our lab staff has not had any COVID-19 infections.”

“In the Chapter’s ACI Certification program, we reduced the number of people in each session because of social distancing requirements. We require masks and are identifying new locations for Certification sessions that are compatible with the COVID-19 guidelines we drafted,” Fourre said. “And now we have sessions open to new applicants.”  

Robert Hightower is Technical Services Supervisor at Syar Concrete and co-ordinates Syar locations and related projects. He is the Chapter’s Acting President and Chair of the Budget Committee.

Hightower describes his experience, “My illness started like a normal cold. Then it went to fever. Then the cough began. I couldn’t get any sleep because I’d wake up every five minutes coughing. It took nine days for the fever to break. This was the second week of January, before COVID-19 was identified. I did a roundtrip to Phoenix when I was slightly sick. So I probably infected others. I got home and locked myself inside for the run of the flu and then four days of rest. The cough stayed with me for another month. Quest Diagnostics was offering an antibody test, so I took it, and it came back with 70% certainty that I’d had COVID-19. I really believe that this disease came to California in November and December.”

“The impact of the actual illness has been minimal to Syar. The real challenge was to follow the COVID ordinances and those varied from county to county. At first we didn’t know if we were breaking the law in one jurisdiction by delivering materials to another jurisdiction. Critical infrastructure projects could continue, but other construction had to be halted. But the scope of critical infrastructure was not consistent. PPE requirements differed from one jobsite to another.”

“Most of our people cannot work from home, so we had to plan social distancing throughout the company and on jobsites and that was difficult. And we wanted to make sure our staff understood how the virus spread, to try and reduce the sense of anxiety that folks had.”

Clancy Hogan is a regional Sales Representative for Venator Materials. Pre-COVID he travelled several hundred miles a day to meet with clients in person.

“At the start of COVID, our company locked down. Now I visit clients every couple weeks, and follow all the guidelines.”

Clancy believes he contracted COVID at the end of February, “I recall a guy in Costco next to me was coughing heavily without a mask, and I’m sure I got it from him.”

“At first, I didn’t think I had anything serious. Just a cold. For the first two weeks of March, I fought it at home. Then I started on prescription antibiotics for a week. But I couldn’t get any sleep. The fourth week I went to the hospital.”

When we spoke with Clancy, his in-home recovery treatment involved taking 10 pills a day. 

Clancy reminded everyone to take the virus and safety measures seriously, “We follow all the guidelines. Masks, wiping down surfaces, checking our temperatures. But it’s frustrating when it gets politicized. Personally, I’ve never been as sick as I was, and I want other people to realize it’s dangerous. You have to protect your family. The last major pandemic was over a 100 years ago, and we can’t talk to the people who lived through it, but we know COVID-19 can be a killer.”

“My wife and I haven’t been together like this in years, and she sometimes misses me being out of the house. She looks at me after some dumb thing I say and comments, ’Don’t you have someplace to be?’”   


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