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Local businesses take hits as they navigate COVID-19 closures, changes

March 25, 2020 - 00:00
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  • Local businesses take hits as they navigate COVID-19 closures, changes
    Parking lots for local restaurants, like Taco Tony’s Mexican Restaurant in Eagle Lake, stand empty as customers are limited to takeout or to-go orders during COVID-19 precautionary measures implemented. Citizen | Alesia Woolridge

The parking lot of Taco Tony’s Mexican Restaurant in Eagle Lake is hauntingly empty on a normally packed Monday morning.

Businesses throughout the county, particularly restaurants and small businesses, are experiencing staggering drops in sales with the coronavirus (COVID-19) precautionary measures in place that prohibit gatherings of 10 or more people to promote social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus.

While Colorado County still has zero confirmed positive test results for the virus, the precautionary measures in place to keep the county’s infection rates low are hitting small business owners like Tony Garcia hard.

Standing in his empty restaurant dining area, Garcia says, “If we can keep the take out orders coming in, then I will make enough to make sure my team can work three or four days a week and I can pay most of my business bills. I don’t know what to expect, though.”

Blake Shulte, owner of Blake Street Bar and Grill in Columbus, said, “ Thanks to everyone that supported us this week, and please support all your local restaurants if you’re able to. Remember, you’re not just supporting the owners, think about the employees. Your business may allow the restaurants to keep their doors open and allow the employees to keep their jobs and feed their families.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott relaxed state laws that prohibited the sale of beer, wine and margaritas to-go, and being able to still sell drinks with food orders has helped some local restauranteurs.

Other local businesses are finding ways to work around the temporary COVID-19 precautionary measures in place as well.

Robert Henneke, owner of Henneke Funeral Home in Columbus, said, “Whenever possible, we will continue to enable families to participate in the rituals that are most important to them. At this time, according to the CDC, there is no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of confirmed or suspected COVID-19. However, with the social distancing guidelines in place, private funerals and burials will be immediate family only (spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren of the deceased).”

Henneke said visitations services are still available but limited, and funeral home personnel would be on hand to provide hand sanitizer to each guest as they come in.

“Our staff remains vigilant about cleaning our facilities and ensuring we are all following recommended guidelines,” Henneke continued.

A Brighter Day Daycare owner Beverley McMillan said her business is making changes and taking recommended precautions, too.

“We want to make sure we are doing above and beyond what is being suggested. We are doing the same things we have always done, but we are doing even more now because this is something we have never experienced before.”

McMillan said facility tours are only after 6 p.m. now, absolutely no visitors during business hours and class sizes are smaller now to accommodate the 10 or fewer people in each classroom guideline.

“We need daycares to stay open because some people are still working ; our first responders and healthcare professionals who have children have to have somewhere for their children to go during this time,” McMillan said.

Staff members have their temperatures taken when they come in to work daily, and children’s temps are checked at drop-off.

McMillan says any staff member with cold or flu symptoms - with or without a fever- has to go home and cannot return to work without doctor’s clearance.

“Even with staff members I know have seasonal allergies, I still will not take a chance, especially not at a time like this.”

Backpacks are wiped down at the door, and kids are washing their hands more often than normal. “ Our kids don’t use hand sanitizer at all, so we are taking the kids up to 20 times a day to wash hands. We teach them to sneeze and cough in their elbow.”

For more information on coronavirus, visit cdc.gov.