In the midst of what is rapidly becoming one of the most notorious periods in modern world history, the ongoing pandemic caused by COVID-19 continues to challenge every aspect of our society.
Cases of the virus in Rhode Island increased by 50 percent from Tuesday to Wednesday (22 to 33 confirmed cases) and thousands of people are self-quarantining. Many thousands more are navigating a strange world where public schools are closed at least until April 3, restaurants are empty, the governor has officially recommended avoiding attending the funerals of deceased loved ones and bars served not a single pint of beer on St. Patrick’s Day.
Needless to say, this is truly an unprecedented moment in American history. Widespread crises like what occurred September 11, 2001 have shaken our nation to the core before – but unlike that attack, which ultimately brought us closer together as neighbors and fellow countrymen, navigating life in the panic of a pandemic requires separation from our fellow community members so as to not make things worse. It is an isolating kind of crisis that exacerbates how surreal it all feels.
While we understand the negative economic impact that closing down restaurants and places of business for prolonged periods of time will have, there is simply no other choice. If extreme measures are not taken, the contagiousness of this virus will spread fast and wreak havoc upon the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. The death toll would be catastrophic.
So, we shelter in place and work from home and take the opportunity to organize our garages and catch up on some reading or television that we’ve been unable to dedicate proper time to in the past. However, we also can’t just forget about our business-owning friends and neighbors who are stressing about bills piling up that they can’t generate revenue to pay. The state has been responsible in guaranteeing unemployment insurance for those who are laid off, but more must be done to ensure that small businesses can access loans and other capital to stay afloat during these turbulent times.
As citizens, we can do our own part by still patronizing these businesses – just perhaps not in the ways we’re most accustomed to. Although you can’t gather your family and head out to sit down at the restaurant, many restaurants are still doing online ordering and take-out over the phone – and are relying on this service to keep them afloat. Many people who work gig jobs, such as Grubhub, also rely on restaurants continuing to deliver their products to hungry quarantined patrons. So order out and order often.
Another option is to purchase gift certificates and gift cards to places you may not be able to immediately patronize. This will help them keep afloat for the time being and give you something to look forward to once the gathering restrictions are lifted or eased. Think about how nice a sit-down dinner will be once the precautions are over, and how much nicer it will be when you remember you have a gift certificate to treat yourself to something extra special.
For other small businesses, don’t forget to check out their websites. Many small business providers were selling merchandise online before the coronavirus panic took hold, and many are continuing to do so. The mail hasn’t stopped delivering, so there’s no reason you can’t purchase something nice for a relative’s birthday, or get a jump on a Mother’s Day gift.
For those members of the community who are fortunate enough to be able to help with donations, there are local organizations like the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Westbay Community Action who do great work every day helping those who need it. In this economically challenging time, these organizations may become overwhelmed and need all the assistance they can get.
This outbreak may physically force us apart as a community, and we do need to take seriously and heed the warnings put forth by health professionals to prevent the loss of life. However, this does not mean we must abandon our communities. Our friends and neighbors need us now, more than ever.