We can't pull back now in helping those businesses most struggling
One of the greatest frustrations of this pandemic has been watching schools struggle to open and stay open as bars and taverns continue to serve customers.
Why do we see that difference? Mostly because bars, as businesses, aren’t funded by taxpayer dollars. Schools can afford to be more careful and cautious. But perhaps — and hear us out on this — we should be thinking a fundamentally different way.
Studies have consistently shown that bars and restaurants, even when adopting recommended safety standards, can be sites of COVID-19 spread. It only makes sense. Even if their patrons cover their mouths and noses most of the time, those same patrons still have to remove masks to drink or eat. And if alcohol is involved, there’s no question that inhibitions will loosen as evenings lengthen.
On the other hand, we know that schools that follow safety standards rigorously have been able to operate with minimal disruption. That doesn’t mean they’ve been entirely free of the virus, but the benefits of a functioning, in-person education system are real.
So given these self-evident truths, why aren’t we doing more — much more — to support small businesses like bars and restaurants? We should funnel as much assistance to them now as possible so they can pay their rent and staff members. That way, when most of us are vaccinated, they can fully open and we can all really celebrate.
With chilly winter months ahead, it may be difficult for us all to see the future with clarity. But we’re in the home stretch. We can’t afford to let our guards down now, and we can’t afford to leave our community institutions behind.
That means that yes, we should invest in schools and work toward the goal of in-person instruction, even if that might not be possible everywhere at the moment. But that also means we should invest in our small-business owners, in the bars and restaurants that give our communities so much character and warmth. We shouldn’t put them in a position where they have to risk anyone’s safety — employees or customers — to simply stay open.
Much of this should be the government’s responsibility. But we can help, too. We can place orders for takeout or delivery. We can buy gift cards. We can support these businesses while safeguarding public health.