Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the terms “essential” and “nonessential” have been used a good deal. Under the current North Carolina stay at home order, certain businesses are deemed by government as essential. Those businesses can operate as normal (if there is any normal anymore) and their employees are deemed “essential.” Unfortunately, this also means that these so-called essential employees are potentially put in harm’s way by exposing them to the public. So-called nonessential businesses, such as gyms, nail salons, hairdressers, furniture stores, clothing stores, barbershops, etc. have had to shut down.

The problem with this rational is that what is essential to one person, may not be essential to another. The more significant conundrum is that many of these nonessential businesses are small businesses, the mom and pop shops that are the bread and butter for their owners and the local economy. When their businesses are shut down, even for just a few days, never mind a month or longer, they suffer, terribly. Grants and loans were supposedly put in place to help these small businesses survive, but they have proven difficult if not impossible to obtain. 

Then there’s the employees who work at these nonessential businesses who have been left in a deep, dark hole somewhere. Some of them have been able to get unemployment. Those are the lucky ones. Many have not due, in part, to a creaky, antiquated unemployment system.

It’s no wonder groups like #ReopenNC have formed. These people are, understandably, upset that they can’t open their businesses or go back to work.

There’s a huge disconnect, which is, to some extent understandable. Planning for a crisis like COVID-19 is difficult. The United States has not ever dealt with such a disaster, at least one that has lasted as long as this one has. People are frustrated, and scared – scared of losing their livelihoods. Which is more frightening – contracting COVID-19 or losing what might be your life savings? That’s a tough choice.

The problem with the novel coronavirus that has caused COVID-19 is that it’s proving unpredictable and there’s so much misinformation being shared. Data is just that, data. It can be skewed, misread or sensationalized. It stands to reason that heavily populated areas, like Charlotte, are going to see more cases than Lincoln County. Does that mean that Lincoln County should open before Mecklenburg County? Maybe, but if Lincoln County opens, will that invite potentially infected individuals from other closed counties into Lincoln County and infect the community? Quite possibly.

Without a crystal ball, it’s impossible to know what may happen when businesses are allowed to open. One can only hope that once they do, the businesses that have had to close are able to resume business as usual and in time recover. We can also hope that the reopening won’t result in a more deadly second wave of infection. 

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