There’s no easy way to say this: America’s small businesses are dying. Small businesses in some industries—retail, restaurant, travel, hospitality—now can be considered an endangered species. If you want to help them survive, if you want your own small business to survive, the most important thing you can do is simple: wear a mask.
Wear a mask. It’s not a political statement. It’s a way to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, get this country reopened, and save lives and businesses, especially small businesses.
Consider just a few statistics:
- Yelp reported 71,500 businesses on their site have closed for good since March 1
- 80% of independent restaurants aren’t sure they’ll survive Covid
- Nearly half of all small business members of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce lost 100% of their sales or closed down completely
The real extent of the loss won’t be known for some time, but I’ve seen it up close as I watched my favorite mom-and-pop pet store close after 38 years in business. How can we prevent this from happening to other small businesses?
Wear a mask.
If we wait for a vaccine to save us, it will be far too late for small businesses. Even if a vaccine is developed and tested by the beginning of 2021, it will take months to get it widely produced, distributed, and have sufficient people vaccinated. The majority of small businesses do not have the funds to survive that long.
“Despair is now the right word to use,” said Amanda Ballantyne, Executive Director of Main Street Alliance. “As people (small business owners) watch the numbers of the virus spike, they’re calculating how long is it worth hanging on…and the ones who’ve reopened, they’ve realized the cost of reopening is surprisingly more expensive than they thought it would be.”
It’s not just Main Street small businesses—restaurants, retailers, hairdressers, child care centers—in danger. When a small business closes, gone are clients of accountants and lawyers, graphic designers, janitors, IT consultants. As small business employees lose their jobs, they spend less on dentists and doctors, on entertainment and sporting equipment, on new electronic devices, on cars.
So, please just wear a mask.
Yes, yes, I know you’ve done your part; Americans have done their part. For months, we stayed home, washed our hands, supervised kids’ schooling while working from home. We missed weddings and funerals and going to churches and sporting events. We didn’t complain (much). We did our part.
Unfortunately, the federal government squandered that time. Other countries—such as Germany—implemented national programs for testing and tracing, enabling their economies and schools and sports to now safely reopen. But this Administration provided no leadership, leading us to our current state.
So, if we want to quickly defeat the virus, we have to take the fight into our own hands. We have to pick up a mask and put it on.
“If we could get everybody to wear a mask right now, I really think in the next four, six, eight weeks, we could bring this epidemic under control,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a Trump appointee.
“We can virtually eliminate the virus any time we decide to,” said Andy Slavitt, Obama’s head of Medicare and Medicaid. Slavitt says we could be open for business by October—schools, sports, business—if we “threw the kitchen sink” at Covid. And the number one step: wear a mask.
Experts agree on the importance of wearing a mask. Wearing a mask, keeping a social distance, avoiding large groups—stop us from spreading the virus to others.
You don’t believe wearing masks will help end this pandemic? Consider the consequences:
- If the experts are wrong, and yet we all wear masks, what’s the downside? We’ll be a bit uncomfortable.
- If the experts are right, and yet we do not wear masks, what’s the downside? Hundreds of thousands of more small businesses will die—their owners and employees will lose their livelihoods—their communities will lose their vitality and much of their tax base—and, inevitably and tragically, tens of thousands of more Americans will die.
Wearing a mask is a small price to pay—a small bet to make—to save small businesses, save lives, save our economy. Do your part—help save small businesses: wear a mask.
Copyright Rhonda Abrams, 2020
This article originally ran in USA Today on July 29, 2020