You’ve been encouraged to wash your hands, practice “social distancing,” etc. And we’ll add one more: Financial support of local businesses now may be the difference between life and death for many of your favorite places that make your community so special. Yes, conditions could quickly become that dire for many. Whether it’s Lawton, Medicine Park, Duncan, Marlow, Cache or any other community you call home.

This COVID-19 situation’s impact isn’t yet fully known, and we doubt it will be for some time. There’s already been national and world impacts, Oklahoma a little less so. But, as most of us know, that’s normal. Economic impacts, over the past several decades, arrive here later than on the coasts. Thankfully, history has shown they’re often not as severe and don’t last quite as long. While we hope the same holds true now, this is a situation like we’ve never seen before.

Big corporations have ready access to large amounts of capital and other funds to help them manage through extended periods of crisis. Small, locally owned and operated businesses, not so much. Many small businesses operate on what is called a short-term burn rate — or the time (measured in days, weeks or months) a business can run before exhausting its savings.

Most can operate losing money short term; fully depleting a business’ operating reserves is another. Even those with a bit of a cushion may quickly run out of money needed to pay employees, rent and for products they need. In the end, unfortunately, they have no choice but to post a sign on the door, lock the doors, and walk away.

The strategies and tactics necessary to defeat the spread of the coronavirus are going to put extreme pressure on nearly every local business you know and love — including this newspaper. Your support of shopping locally now and through the recovery from this crisis will make the difference between life and death for so many small, locally owned and operated businesses.

Yes, Amazon and other digital-based merchants are convenient. But know when you make a decision to spend — or more accurately invest — through them, the economic impact is minimal, if any, on this local economy. The city will likely get their share through tax dollars, but the contributions to schools, arts programs, youth activities and non-profits — from the businesses AND their employees — leave this community. As the screen thanks you for your purchase, one more important community program takes a cut. It’s a “cotton-candy” economic purchase, if you wish — tasty in the short term, but promoting decay in the long run.

Let’s not promote decay in our communities. As we go through this situation, please consider each dollar you spend as a critical investment in our community. You and your decisions will shape the landscape of our communities.

Many local businesses have already had to adjust their models to survive. Reducing hours, changing the way they provide services, or even finding new ways to serve customers creatively. Know this is going to be incredibly challenging, and they will need your support. Again, not even this newspaper is immune. Like many of our advertisers, we’re working quickly to find a way to navigate this situation successfully.

Shop locally. Carefully consider how you spend each of your dollars — knowing each is a highly impactful local investment. Doing so will make a direct determination of local businesses you see on the other side of COVID-19.

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