A sign in front of Nookie’s Restaurant and Brewery in Hermiston advertises that the restaurant is open for business.

Local retailers, salons and bars rejoiced Friday after reopening for the first time in 67 days.

However much people may have missed getting a haircut or a drink, business owners and their employees were hit harder by the shutdown than mere inconvenience.

Last week, I spoke of supporting businesses that had closed. This week, let’s talk about what we can do to help them as they reopen.

The most important thing that everyone in our community can do is to help Umatilla and Morrow counties reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The state’s plan for reopening, crafted by public health experts, includes moving counties through a series of phases. To move on to a new phase, a county must see declining numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, declining numbers of hospitalizations for respiratory illnesses and sufficient hospital capacity to handle an increase. If a county sees a surge in cases, it can be bumped back down to a lower phase or complete reclosure.

Moving into Phase One does not mean that COVID-19 is not still circulating in our community. It means that if you get it, the county now has the means to contact everyone who you exposed to the virus before you knew you had it, and local hospitals will have a bed for you if you’re one of the people who gets really sick.

It also means that if you decide to hold a barbecue to celebrate your child’s graduation, and the next day you start feeling sick, and it turns out you had COVID-19 and passed it on to several guests, and some of them passed it on to their families, and now two of those people are in the hospital, your actions may lead to businesses across the entire county having to close again.

You may not like that idea, and you may not agree that’s how it should be handled, but that’s the reality we live in.

Now is the time for us to be considerate members of society by doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 as we begin to be able to reopen parts of the economy. That means following guidelines put in place for our safety, including staying 6 feet apart, wearing a mask in public, washing our hands frequently, staying home if we have a cough and continuing to reduce the number of people we are in contact with.

It’s not fun, but it will save lives. And don’t bother telling me that some lives don’t matter as much because they’re over the age of 60 or have an underlying condition like heart disease.

Some of those people who are at high risk for complications from COVID-19 are now put in a difficult position as their workplaces reopen. A rallying cry for those pushing for reopening is “If you’re scared, stay home,” but not everyone can work from home. And those with underlying health conditions, like diabetes, are often the least able to quit their jobs because they need the health insurance provided by their employer to cover the exorbitant cost of insulin and other treatments.

So when you’re out and about, remember that while you may be celebrating the chance to get a manicure or sit down at a restaurant, the person serving you is putting their health at risk to do so. They may be scared, but feel unable to stay home. So be polite. Don’t whine about rules you don’t like. Give others plenty of personal space. Tip well. And consider ordering your food to go.

We’re not out of the woods yet.

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