Shop local. You hear it all the time. We print the phrase in the paper at least a few times a year, especially around Small Business Saturday, which follows Black Friday.

Right now, though, as important as that simple, two-word imperative is to the life of our local community at all times, we can add to it: Shop local to help local businesses survive. Shop local to ensure you can still shop local in six months. Shop local because the shop owners — our neighbors, friends, relatives — really, really need it.

The novel coronavirus and the need for us all to participate in disrupting its spread has radically changed how we go about our daily lives. Gov. Bill Lee’s recent executive order requiring restaurants to close their dining rooms and barring social gatherings of 10 or more people effectively shut down some businesses that count on people coming together — but not all.

As Cicely Babb reported this week, while many restaurants had already closed their dining rooms and begun doing business only in drive-thru lanes, others didn’t have that option. Some of those establishments, such as Tipton’s Cafe in downtown Greeneville, are still serving customers, but only via takeout and, in a first for many, curbside service. With medical experts urging people to stay home as much as possible, even those options can’t be making up for normal business. “We’re used to it being full,” Mary Hensley, a manager at Tipton’s, told Babb.

As restaurants look to continue serving up good food — and keep their employees working — other local businesses have gotten creative to keep operating, as well. Esther and Ella Boutique, for example, has used Facebook Live and other social media to showcase merchandise and is offering curbside pickup and local delivery. “We are still open for now,” shop owner Ashley Leonard told reporter Eugenia Estes last week. “We still have bills and employees to pay. We are taking it day by day.”

This is a tough time for us all. With the county’s eighth confirmed case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, among 957 across the state reported by the Tennessee Department of Health on Thursday, it appears likely to get tougher. If you are staying home and avoiding large groups to protect yourself and others from the virus, good. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

If you need to be out for work or another reason, consider grabbing a takeout meal from one of our local restaurants. Or, call your favorite restaurant and ask about delivery. If you feel the itch to shop, take a look at the website or Facebook page for a local business. If you don’t want or need anything right now, think about buying a gift card or two that can be used when things are back to normal.

We need to look out for one another during this pandemic, and that means looking out for our local businesses, too. This virus will pass. We need them to stay.

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