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Some Small Businesses in IA Take Long View on Reopening

This Friday, all counties in Iowa can have certain businesses reopen to limited capacity. That's despite concerns about reopening the state's economy too soon during the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
This Friday, all counties in Iowa can have certain businesses reopen to limited capacity. That's despite concerns about reopening the state's economy too soon during the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
May 14, 2020

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa's governor has announced more easing of restrictions on business activity.

That might be welcome news for small businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, but not all of them are ready to open their doors.

The latest order allowing more business activity goes into effect this Friday. That follows an earlier lifting of restrictions on May 1.

Mindy Bergstrom, owner of Cooks' Emporium in Ames, says sales are down, but online orders have allowed her store to stay afloat.

Even though she could open her doors to a limited capacity, Bergstrom says safety concerns are more prominent right now.

"It's just very difficult to see a lot of patrons downtown supporting other businesses that have opened, but no one is wearing masks," she relates.

Bergstrom says she would like more assurances that the state is seeing a clear downward trend in the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Kim Reynolds says most of Iowa's 22 counties that had continued restrictions have either stabilized or have seen cases go down.

But top U.S. health officials testified before Congress this week, warning that reopening state economies too soon could lead to a resurgence of outbreaks.

Geri Aglipay, Midwest senior outreach manager for the group Small Business Majority, says smaller stores want to help their communities see a rebound in economic activity, but it can be harder for them to make decisions about reopening. She says there's concern about enforcing proper guidelines.

"If the customer is finding that there's a business that may not be -- or that they think is not -- complying to safety measures, or what can a business do to enforce customers wearing masks?" she states.

Bergstrom says it's also harder for smaller businesses because they don't have the space to spread out customers, even with restrictions that call for a limited number of patrons.

"We don't have the luxury of very, very large spaces for customers to shop in," she points out.

In Iowa, businesses that are reopening have to limit their customers to 50% capacity and encourage social distancing.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - IA