Until Monday morning it was difficult for me to comprehend just how widespread the effects of COVID-19 would be.
Then, Gov. Larry Hogan stood at a podium and issued an order for all bars, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to close, and prohibited any gathering of more than 50 people for the foreseeable future.
Because I work at a newspaper some people think we’re enjoying this COVID-19 outbreak because it means we’re getting more eyeballs on our content.
Some people even think we, as “the media,” just want to watch the world burn in mass hysteria.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The news Monday hurt. It hurt because the people it affects are my friends. They’re my neighbors I see at the grocery store. They’re my people.
The bars and restaurants from Family Meal to Monkey LaLa in Frederick County are where I’ve spent countless nights getting to know bartenders and building relationships with friends and strangers alike. There are gyms like Odin Crossfit and The Fort Mixed Martial Arts at Soldierfit at which my girlfriend and I have found a community that encourages us to be better versions of ourselves and taught us new skills.
The people who work in those facilities now are virtually out of work as a result of a decision by the governor that, in the grand scheme of things, was the right call. But it’s one that will certainly hurt our local economy.
The owners of these businesses have to figure out how to pay those employees, and keep their business afloat long enough to weather the storm. Some won’t be able to pay their employees. Some won’t be able to stay afloat. That’s perhaps what hurts the most in seeing this virus make its way into our community.
The local economy in Frederick is incredibly diversified and therefore resilient in the event of a recession. But, it’s also overwhelmingly predicated on small businesses. And very few small businesses can deal with being shut down for what looks more and more like to be months and months rather than days or weeks.
As a reporter (and even though I have this fancy city editor title, I still consider myself a reporter at heart) I typically have to exercise a semblance of impartiality. But I’m not going to do that here. Instead, I want to advocate.
I want to advocate for my community to come together. In a time where it’s important for us distance ourselves from one another physically, it’s perhaps more important than ever for us to come together emotionally and spiritually.
It’s important for us to look out for our neighbors. If we can have the time and money to grab groceries for someone in need, we should do so.
And we should support those experiencing challenges from the governor’s order. We may not be able to stop in to eat at our favorite restaurants. But we should order take out when we can. And when we do, tip what you normally would for table-side service.
If your favorite restaurant doesn’t do take out, stop in and buy a gift card in the next couple weeks so the company can have the money now and you can grab your meal later.
If your gym is closed, keep your membership. See if they will let you borrow equipment for the next few weeks and take home a few dumbbells to workout from home.
Most of all, continue to shop local when you can. The economy needs it now more than ever.
To the businesses being hit with these challenges, I hope they find ways to innovate and continue to meet customer needs. Maybe it’s through curbside pickup, or putting workouts online like many gyms are doing.
The challenges are great, but so are the opportunities.
This storm is going to hurt. But our community will get through this.
And we will all do it together.
Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.