The North Bend Eagle


Shutdown has people eager to get back to work

by Nathan Arneal
Published 5/6/20

Dr. John Riha was a week away from celebrating the six-month anniversary of his dental office in North Bend.

North Bend had been without a dentist’s office for six months following the March 2019 flood, and Riha was slowly building a clientele. Almost every day he would book an appointment for a new patient.

Front porch pictureCrystal Nichols sits on the front stoop of her North Bend home with sons Brody, Mason and Braiden. She has been furloughed from work since March, and a delay in receiving unemployment benefits has increased the financial pinch of the coronavirus shutdown.

On March 17, Riha saw three new patients in his North Bend office. It hasn’t been open since.

Effective March 18, the Nebraska Dental Association recommended dentists not see patients except in the case of emergency. A week later, March 25, Governor Peter Ricketts made that recommendation law as the state’s Directed Health Measure closed all dental offices.

In the month and a half since, Riha has seen a total of six patients, two in North Bend and four at his Valley office.

“We were still building, but it definitely has put a damper on building the practice because with the exception of emergencies, the phones have been virtually silent,” Riha said. “It’s been a damper for sure.”

A few days after Riha closed shop, Crystal Nichols was offered a chance to be furloughed from her job as a stylist at Cost Cutters in Fremont.

Over the previous week, the number of clients she was seeing per day fell by about 75%. Cost Cutters was offering to assist its stylists in applying for unemployment benefits while staying home from work.
Nichols, a Linwood native who has lived in North Bend for the past six years, cheerfully accepted the offer. It would allow her to stay home with her three elementary-school-age sons who were now doing their schooling online. Her last day at work was March 21.

She and a few coworkers applied for unemployment benefits March 23. The others started getting checks within a week or so. Nichols did not. She’s not exactly sure why she was excluded, but suddenly she wasn’t so cheery about the idea of being unemployed.

“As a hairstylist, you don’t get a ton of money,” Nichols said. “ It’s not a high paying job, and having three kids, there’s a lot of expenses with that.”

Her boss at Cost Cutters gave her a phone number to call.

“I’ve been calling that daily for well over a week,” she said, “and every time I’m caller No. 160-something, caller No. 150-something.”

Instead of waiting on the phone for hours, she chose an option to have them call her when it was her turn.

That call never came.


Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

<<Back to the COVID-19 page

<<Back to the front page