John Patteson has worked at Procter and Gamble's Albany paper plant for 16 years. The coronavirus pandemic changed everything.
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John Patteson has worked at Procter and Gamble's Albany paper plant for 16 years. The coronavirus pandemic changed everything.

John Patteson spent the last 16 years working for the Procter and Gamble paper plant in Albany, which is a hotspot for coronavirus in Georgia. In a period of only weeks, almost everything changed.

 
Patteson is a line production leader at the plant, where new safety and social distancing procedures created a new morning routine for him.
 
When he gets out of his car in the morning, he puts on a mask and prepares to have his temperature taken at the entrance.
 

"You come down and where there used to be doors that you'd go through and you cross people, it's a lot quieter than it used to be," he said.

For Patteson and his coworkers, the stress has been twofold. Not only has Albany become a global hotspot in the coronavirus pandemic, but P&G has seen a surge in demand for their paper products as panicked grocery shoppers continue to buy toilet paper in bulk. 

He and his wife aren't strangers to difficult times. They lived through Hurricane Michael in 2018 and outbreaks of tornadoes in the years prior. But, because of social distancing, this is the first time they've had to face hardship alone.

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"This one's different because, with those, there was the southern hospitality where you could go to your neighbor and you could help them," Patteson said. "You could work with them."

In spite of that, Patteson and his coworkers haven't buckled under pressure. As demand for toilet paper and other products grew, he and his team realized they had to find a way to increase production. 

There was an idle machine at the plant that, with the right amount of work, could be restarted and used. P&G flew in additional technicians from Missouri and Pennsylvania to make it happen. The new machine was ready in a few weeks.

"Our workforce has really pulled together to step up to enable us to be able to meet those demands," he said.

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The stress of the pandemic has also hit them at home. Patteson's wife is a furloghed nurse, and both of them are now trying to handle having their five children at home.

"We've gone from having our normal routine with work to this," he said. "She's gone from fulltime nurse to now homeschool teacher of five."

They've tried to do what they can to stay connected to their neighbors.

"My wife has cooked breakfast for folks working at the hospital and I'm very thankful to be out of work for a company that also gives back to the community," he said.

In spite of all the chaos, Patteson said there's one thing he knows for sure: that he and his coworkers are dedicated to making sure the rest of the country gets more toilet paper as soon as possible.

"Charmin is on the way," he said. "We've got Charmin coming to you."