By Cat Webb, Staff Writer-
One by one, businesses in the Chattanooga area and around the world are closing in the face of the current global pandemic.
As of March 19, 2020, the World Health Organization reported almost 210,000 worldwide cases of COVID-19, the novel strain of coronavirus that has quickly become a global threat. Over 800 people have died.
Normalcy has been interrupted by the virus, with recommendations for social distancing and fears of infection driving people into self-imposed quarantine. This has caused problems for local businesses, who have been forced to either close or drastically alter their operations. No one is sure how long they will have to be closed and, with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s online-only policy being extended through the spring semester, it appears that it may be a while before Chattanooga sees some relief.
Restaurants like Community Pie, Milk & Honey, and Urban Stack are all part of the Monen Family Restaurant Group, which is taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. According to a statement posted on the Monen Family Restaurant Group’s website, they’ve instituted new policies to help curb infections, like limiting guest contact with menus and self-serve condiments, eliminating the use of paper money, and providing many ways for staff to easily sanitize their hands.
The Monen Family Restaurant Group is also starting a GoFundMe to try and raise money to help staff that have been impacted, promising to match the amount that is donated. Now that Mayor Andy Burke has joined other lawmakers in mandating all restaurants switch to delivery or take-out only, employees of these restaurants may very well need it.
Some other Chattanooga staples have been closed entirely: The Tennessee Aquarium and Ruby Falls are all closed through the end of the month. The Chattanooga Zoo and Rock City Gardens are closed until further notice.
These closures will likely affect the city’s economy greatly. Nationally, the stock market has plummeted several times, and the federal government has been reducing interest rates and bailing out certain airlines in an attempt to slow the economic downturn.
Locally, closures like the Tennessee Aquarium will likely hurt the city. According to the Tennessee Aquarium’s website, their economic impact on the city is around $100 million, bringing in millions in taxes and providing many educational services. They have also had to lay off all of their part-time employees, according to a statement from the Aquarium’s CEO, Keith Sanford.
“Each individual was a valued part of our team and we deeply appreciate their service,” said Sanford in the statement on the Aquarium’s website. “Further, we hope they will reapply for open positions once it is safe to welcome guests back to the Aquarium.”
To help ensure that fewer people get sick, and that hospitals are not overburdened, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization promote good handwashing, social distancing, and staying home if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Older people and those with preexisting conditions are more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.
For more information and ways to stay safe, visit CDC or the WHO’s website and follow the guidelines there.