Fleet manager with coronavirus credits CDC for reducing risk

Bob Reese, general manager at Packer Transportation in Reno, Nev., came down with COVID-19 after traveling to Europe with friends.Bob Reese, general manager at Packer Transportation in Reno, Nev., came down with COVID-19 after traveling to Europe with friends.

It could have been a much different story for Bob Reese and Packer Transportation if he and the others he was traveling with had not followed the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s instructions to self-quarantine after returning from Europe last month.

Reese, general manager at Packer, a flatbed and brokerage company in Reno, Nevada, said he, his girlfriend and two friends that traveled with them to Ireland were told by the CDC upon coming back to the U.S. to stay home for at least two weeks and note any symptoms that might be related to COVID-19 including an increase in body temperature.

Good thing, too. Reese, his girlfriend, a registered nurse, and their two friends began showing symptoms not long after touching down in the U.S.

“It was just a couple of days later that the fever and the cough started developing,” said Reese who was the first in his group to get tested for the virus. “They jab that swab up there (in the nose) pretty far. It makes you shutter a little bit.”

He was tested on March 23. Test results came back positive that night. His girlfriend also tested positive for the virus along with their two friends. Quarantine continues to this day which is fine with Reese who credits the CDC for keeping him and his friends away from others, particularly those with health issues at work.

“The CDC did a good job to keep anybody, that was maybe at a higher risk, away from others,” said Reese who no longer exhibits symptoms. “We feel great at this point. We’re in the fourth week of being at home. We’ve been symptom free for a little over two to two-and-a-half weeks now.”

Despite the disruption brought on by COVID-19, Reese said Packer Transportation is looking to hire more drivers.Despite the disruption brought on by COVID-19, Reese said Packer Transportation is looking to hire more drivers.

Though some COVID-19 patients have reported severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, Reese said that wasn’t the case for him and his friends. He and his girlfriend stuck to an over-the-counter regimen which included vitamin C, echinacea, turmeric and ibuprofen.

“The symptoms were very manageable,” Reese said. “There was a little congestion—some nasal and chest congestion. There were a couple days of mild fever. We were monitoring our temperatures and it never got over 100 degrees. Took some Advil and got lots of sleep, drank lots of water and actually worked from home the whole time.”

Remaining symptom free, however, is only part of the battle. COVID-19 testing through the Washoe County Health District is another.

“The tests have kept coming back positive even though we were symptom free,” Reese said. “When we asked the health department why that would be the senior immunologist said particles of the virus can still reside in your airways or sinuses for up to six weeks.”

In the meantime, working from home has become the new normal for now.

“Working from home…it’s certainly a different feeling,” said Reese, who’s been general manager at Packer since 2004. “You cut out that rigid schedule. Seems like you’re up working earlier and don’t mind staying later. And then you get to take your miscellaneous breaks throughout the day. It’s kind of more at your own pace and desire. Seems quite a bit less stressful.”

Though they’re feeling the pinch from the shut-down of construction sites in neighboring California, Packer has not laid off any of its employees and is currently hiring drivers.

“All we’ve heard about the last couple of years has been about the driver shortage and we still have work available and we have trucks available, some that were sitting idle before any of this hit,” Reese said. “And there’s people looking for work due to layoffs. We want to take advantage of getting those people on board. Trying to let them understand how we operate. It’s going to make a good home for them.”

Like so many other companies, Packer has implemented new procedures, including social distancing, to help lower the risk for exposure to the virus. They’ve also been handling paperwork electronically to reduce person-to-person contact.

“Anybody that has to (manually) process paperwork is using gloves and masks, and we have eliminated drivers from coming into the office,” Reese said. “We have a person who goes out to collect paperwork and turn it in themselves just to keep foot traffic in areas like the office down or eliminate it essentially.”

Despite a tough loss of construction-related hauling jobs in California, Packer Transportation has not had to layoff any of its employees.Despite a tough loss of construction-related hauling jobs in California, Packer Transportation has not had to layoff any of its employees.

Reese has been general manager of Packer since 2004. He started working there roughly 20 years ago as a forklift driver. No one else there has tested positive for the virus though they did have some close calls.

“We had a couple guys who had some symptoms early on and due to obvious concern we had them stay at home and call into the health department like we were instructed to do,” Reese said.

Their tests came back negative. Is it the result of social distancing, wearing gloves and hand sanitizing? Or maybe just a luck of the draw? Who knows. It’s an invisible enemy that Reese is betting can be managed by companies across the country and those close to home.

“If they take whatever precaution it seems like they could manage it. Hopefully, Nevada gets to open up soon. Vegas has been really hurt,” Reese said.