Though not entirely unexpected, the announcement from the International Carwash Association that The Car Wash Show had been cancelled, still came as a shock. However, the speed and manner in which the circumstances resulting from the Coronavirus outbreak have deteriorated over the past few weeks make it clear that cancellation was the right call.

However much we might lament being deprived of the benefits from all the hard work that went into organizing the event and the efforts expended by individual exhibitors in preparing for the show, the safety of our industry colleagues and those they come in contact with trumps any disappointment or inconvenience we might experience.

Industry associations have been hard at work guiding their members through this difficult time. For example, the New York State Car WashAssociation provided links to two webinars on the Coronavirus and its impact on employers presented in mid March by the Business Council of New York State. In addition, NYSCWA linked to the council’s “Managing Coronavirus” page and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Coronavirus page.

The association also provided a list of recommendations to its members. Several of these are common to all businesses, such as frequent hand washing and having employees stay home if they feel ill. Others target car washing specifically: provide gloves to employees who work inside a vehicle, convert a full-service wash to an exterior, or eliminate interior cleaning and detailing.

On March 19, Governor Phil Murphy made New Jersey operators’ choices for them by ordering the closure of all “personal care” businesses. Following this order, Car Wash Operators of New Jersey (CWONJ) advised its members to discontinue interior cleaning and to operate “under the express and self-service models only.”

With five distinct formats to offer consumers, the car wash industry is in a fortunate position compared to other consumer-facing businesses such as gyms or hotels. Self-service wand bays, in-bay automatics, and express exterior sites all offer service with minimal person-to-person contact and maximum social distancing, while flex- and full-service have the option of going exterior-only. This advantage does not free operators of the obligation to up their cleaning/sanitizing regimen especially with regard to items such as meter boxes, vacuum nozzles, touch screens, etc. Depending on the level of business-closure and restricted-movement orders in effect in a given location, this advantage may of course be for naught.

Fast Lube operators find themselves in a somewhat better position as their businesses are recognized as “essential” and should be allowed to continue operating during shutdowns. No less an authority than the Department of Homeland Security specifically identifies “automotive repair and maintenance facilities” and their employees as essential under the Transportation and Logistics category of a memorandum issued March 19.

A week earlier, the AOCA and ICA joined eight other car-care trade associations in petitioning Congress and the National Governors Association for immediate aid to small businesses and their employees. Some of the issues raised by this coalition have already been addressed legislatively while others, according to media reports, are being considered as the Senate works on an economic aid package.

Vendors to the industry stepped up online to soften the blow from The Car Wash Show cancellation. Sonny’s The Car Wash Factory organized a free Virtual CarWash Expo with a fully developed agenda for April 6 and 7.

National Carwash Solutions announced a Virtual Carwash Convention for April 9 and 10 with a choice of three educational sessions. Hopefully, by the time this issue hits your mailbox, you will have been able to virtually attend.