As Arkansas looks to slowly begin to reopen, city and chamber officials in Greenwood are considering ways to make that as seamless and successful as possible.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arkansas has halted dine-in services at restaurants and bars, limited access to public spaces, prohibited indoor gatherings of 10 or more people and closed some types of businesses. Restrictions are expected to relax somewhat over the next couple of weeks, though Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a news conference Monday (April 27) that the state has not met all the federal guidelines to start re-opening the state in phases.
Restrictions on elected medical procedures were eased Monday, with a directive saying outpatient procedures with no need for overnight stay would be allowed as long as the patient had no symptoms of COVID-19 and no contact with none COVID-19 patients within the past 14 days and other guidelines were met.
Announcements from Gov. Hutchinson are expected Wednesday (April 29) on whether restrictions on restaurants and bars will be relaxed and on Thursday about gyms. Decisions on salons and barbershops are expected Friday and on churches and other large venues on May 4.
Greenwood formed a task group made up of a subset of the city’s economic development committee to come up with strategies and ideas that would help city businesses once restrictions are relaxed, said Bob Purvis, executive director of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce.
The eight-member group has been brainstorming to come up with ways to help businesses and residents adjust back to business as usual during a time with many still have concerns over the virus and its spread. The first thing that is needed, Purvis said, is education. The city and chamber will continue to provide accurate information about what is open on their social media sites.
“We want the community to be confident in what is happening,” Purvis said, noting that with elective procedures receiving the green light, residents should feel confident in contacting their doctors about their needs. “It’s OK to call your doctor. There is no place safer than a doctor’s office or clinic. These guys are the experts on a clean environment.”
Purvis said they will also need to get the word out and promote businesses as they reopen. The task force is looking into banners and yard signs that announce the business is open and ready for customers and even ribbon cuttings to celebrate grand reopenings, Purvis said.
“As things come down from the governor’s office to reopen, we will educate and promote for our businesses here. We will do what we can to keep the community aware, to answer questions and to reassure that what is being done is safe,” he said.
The chamber recently sent a brief survey to business owners in the city concerning the impact the pandemic has had on their business. Purvis said they received around 50 responses.
“What this survey did was give us a basis that there are a lot in our community who are concerned,” he said. “We want to be in the position to do something that maybe will help.”
The vast majority of those responding said they had been negatively or severely negatively impacted. About 20% of respondents said they had closed, most because of a government mandate, Purvis said.
“But what was interesting in the responses is that most were optimistic or very optimistic things will turn around and would get better. And most were hoping to do more marketing and promotion in the future,” he said.
Purvis noted that some businesses were doing well during this time with some even thriving.
“Walmart is doing OK. If you look in the parking lot of Yeager (Hardware), you can see they are doing OK. People have more time, they are doing those home-improvement projects they may have been putting off,” he said. “But we have to be aware that as people run out of money or go back to work, (these businesses) may see a latent effect. They are going to need more boosting.”