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COVID-19 Slows Foot Traffic To Some Small Businesses In Cincinnati

Two customers walk into Alabama Fish Bar on a recent sunny spring day in March.
Two customers walk into Alabama Fish Bar on a recent sunny spring day in March.

It's a perfect sunny spring day to sit on the trunk of your car on Race Street and eat freshly fried fish, but hardly anyone is walking through the doors of Alabama Fish Bar. It's the day before a Friday during Lent, a time that some people don't eat meat. Restaurant management is considering closing its doors a few hours early.Typically during lunch time, customers pack in the small lobby like sardines waiting to get fried fished topped with grilled onions, peppers and a few condiments. Matt, a manager at Fish Bar who declined to give his last name, says because of the coronavirus, foot traffic has been lagging and customers who do come in often have on gloves.

On Wednesday, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley declared a state of emergency because of COVID-19 despite there being zero reported cases in the city. The Ohio Department of Health is reporting five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio.

WVXU spoke with multiple small business owners who say they're worried about closing business but will do whatever is necessary.

Matt suspects most business owners are dragging their feet because although local government says it's taking preventive measures, it hasn't mandated limits on what privately owned retail, food and other service industries should do.

Some large U.S. companies, including Cincinnati's Proctor & Gamble, are encouraging their employees to work from home in hopes of limiting the spread of the disease. But that isn't a luxury most hourly workers can afford. So for now, local business owners say they're being extra vigilant about wiping down surfaces and keeping their distance from customers.

Mica 12 and Paper Wings Co-Owner Mike Deininger says he has six paid part-time employees. "I won't lie to you and tell you that it hasn't kept me up some nights," he says. "Just wondering how we're going to handle it." Right now, they're stepping up cleaning procedures to make sure everyone stays healthy.

The federal government has talked about various plans to ensure the economy doesn't grind to a halt.

Congress is struggling to come to a consensus on a coronavirus bill that could limit the economic impact of the pandemic. The proposed bill addresses paid sick leave, unemployment assistance, nutrition aid and help for states.

President Donald Trump wants a payroll tax cut through November, which is like what the Obama Administration did after the 2008 recession to boost consumer spending. But some experts say the current situation is different and that money wouldn't trickle down to the people who need it.

"Not working would suck because I do get paid hourly," says a sales representative at a clothing boutique in Over-the-Rhine. "I wouldn't make as much money which sucks. I do have a husband which is nice. As long as he's working, I think we would be OK." She says she is concerned about interacting with elderly family members.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says older adults and  people with serious chronic medical conditions have the highest risk of getting sick from the illness.

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