The COVID-19 crisis is at the very least a double whammy. The first is obviously a public health one. It’s critical that the highly contagious virus be contained so that it doesn’t cause widespread sickness, endanger lives and overwhelm the nation’s health system. The other is the economic wallop the crisis — and the steps to bring it under control — is packing.
The impact of the virus’s spread in other parts of the world had already seriously interrupted the nation’s economy as supply chains for manufacturers and vendors dried up and travel and tourism took a hit. But the effort to contain the virus now that it’s spread to this country means draconian measures that appear all but certain to bring the nation’s economy to a halt.
Sadly, the economic hit is already occurring locally and appears likely to worsen before it gets better. Restaurants must now limit their activities to take-out, delivery and drive-through. The worry about social interaction and the importance of social distancing is curtailing shopping activity. And the extreme financial market gyrations and the worry about all this leading to reduced hours or layoffs are leading consumers to limit, if not end, discretionary spending.
An additionally worrisome impact is on the ability of nonprofit organizations, which play such a critical role in the region’s social support network, to raise the private donations they need to perform core functions. Since the concern about gatherings of crowds emerged, such important annual fundraising events as Monadnock Family Services’ Men Who Cook, the Keene Family YMCA’s Sneaker Ball and KHS Project Graduation’s Dancing with the Keene Stars have been postponed or canceled, and others are sure to follow. The Girl Scouts have even stopped selling cookies. At a time when many organizations are financially challenged due to the funding cutbacks the Monadnock United Way recently announced, it will be a challenge during a significant downturn for nonprofits to make up shortfalls and fund essential services.
In discussing various steps taken by the City of Keene in the face of the coronavirus crisis, Mayor George Hansel has been invoking the historic goodwill of city residents during times of crisis, urging a neighbor-to-neighbor approach to meeting some of the challenges that parents with schoolchildren and at-risk seniors are now facing. That tradition of goodwill has long characterized the entire Monadnock Region as well and will also be necessary to help businesses and nonprofit organizations weather the raging storm. (Join our neighbor-helping-neighbor Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/521738202106306)
Everyone, of course, must be mindful of their own comfort level, both with any social interaction and their own financial situation. With that in mind, we’d urge all to consider calling up a local restaurant to order takeout or delivery (and, if able, add an extra tip) — restaurants doing take-out and retailer hours are collected here: www.sentinelsource.com/news/coronavirus/hours_and_closings — reaching out to an area retailer before ordering online to see if there’s a way to comfortably obtain the product locally, supporting a business you might be using in the future by buying a gift card, or making a financial donation to local social-service and other charitable organizations.
If you can take any of these steps, you’ll certainly get good value. Just as important, a fragile local economy will, too.