Running a small business can be a challenge in the most normal of times.

The times in which we are living, it hardly needs to be said, bear little resemblance to normal.

The unprecedented upheavals resulting from our reasonable, albeit unfortunate, efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus have affected most of us.

Parents have to juggle schedules to care for kids during an extended, and unplanned, school closure.

Healthcare workers struggle with uncertainty while continuing to care for their patients.

Government officials seek to give residents accurate, timely information in a situation that seems to change, sometimes in significant ways, by the hour.

Most of these effects almost certainly will be temporary.

But for some business owners the damage could be permanent.

On Monday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown banned restaurants and bars from on-site serving of food and drinks for at least four weeks. This precaution is sensible, and it follows the advice of doctors who say “social distancing” is key to slowing the spread of the virus.

But the potential harm to affected businesses is obvious even to people who have never had to balance a ledger or make a payroll.

Fortunately, the governor’s order allows restaurants to serve take-out meals, and many local establishments are already offering that service.

Local residents have always been a crucial clientele for our restaurants and other businesses, and there’s no reason for that to change during these trying and anxious days.

Even if you’re more comfortable staying home — again, social distancing is the mantra of March 2020 — you’re not elevating your risk in any meaningful way by driving to a local resident and bringing home a hot meal.

Think of it as dining out — a favorite occasion for many of us — but still staying in.

The effects are not limited to restaurants and bars, however.

The governor’s limit on gatherings of no more than 25 people affects other businesses, such as theaters.

During the Baker County Commissioners’ meeting Monday afternoon, Timothy Bishop, the county’s tourism marketing contractor, said “so many tourism partners are being dramatically affected” by coronavirus.

There has been much talk over the past week about how we need to work together to endure this crisis. This is true. But the concept shouldn’t be limited to such things as making sure our friends and family, and in particular older residents or those in poor health who are most vulnerable to the virus, have what they need.

We also need to support the local businesses that we depend on — something we might not think about often because we’re so accustomed to their products and services being available when we need them.

Nor is this strictly an economic issue.

These business owners, besides being our friends, relatives and neighbors, also in many cases are generous supporters of a variety of causes. They sponsor kids who raise animals for 4-H. They donate to a variety of fundraisers that support our schools and other institutions. They are strong threads in the fabric of our community.

They’ve been put in peril through no fault of their own. If we can help them get through these troubled times it will be to the benefit of all.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor

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