The third week of March marks the week that our Newton County small business owners lost the majority of their customers.

The first days of March we were hearing news about this coronavirus that was spreading across the world.  But our lives here in Newton County still felt relatively normal. 

The second week of March, cases had been reported in larger Missouri cities.  And some Missouri schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID 19 among children.

The third week of March, Neosho R-5 announced that school would remain closed following spring break.  Crowder College went to online classes.  Churches switched to online services.  Social gatherings, including the Neosho citywide garage sale, were cancelled.  And we stopped patronizing our local small businesses.

We had advanced warning that we needed to social distance before the virus reached us.  As a result, we can take comfort that Newton County had only nine reported COVID cases as of the beginning of this week.

However, the economic hit to our small business owners and their employees has been devastating.  Some businesses, such as barbershops and salons and home cleaning services, have had to shut down.  Others, such as our locally owned restaurants are struggling to retain enough customers to save their establishments.

Many Newton County residents are lucky enough to still have steady incomes.  And many are looking for ways to step up and let our friends and neighbors know that we care about them. 

Here are a few suggestions:  Is there a local business, like a spa or home cleaning service, that you have been patronizing?  If you can, consider paying them, even though they are temporarily unable to provide their service.

Have you been going to the same stylist or barber for as long as you can remember?  How about sending them a bonus for all those haircuts.

There are hundreds of great locally owned restaurants.  Even without sit down service, we can still patronize them as they struggle to stay open.  Some are selling grocery staples for added income.  Some have drive-up service.  And many are doing take out and curbside service.

And in case you were wondering, it is safe to eat take-out meals.  William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in the department of infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, says that coronaviruses, including COVID have to reach our respiratory tract to make us sick.  “The virus seems to be latching onto cells in the upper reaches of the nose, a place food doesn’t enter.  Virus that found its way into your gastrointestinal tract would be killed by the acid in your stomach.”

As you think of local business owners and more ways that we can help them, pass your ideas along on social media.  We can look forward to the day when COVID is controlled, local businesses are humming along, and life is back to normal.  Now is the time to step up and do your part to make it happen.

-Susanna Smith is one of several like-minded friends who alternate writing a weekly column, Another Point of View, for The Neosho Daily News.