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Support your local businesses — and workers

It seems a distant memory now — the long-awaited announcement that pandemic restrictions were lifted and Oregon was open for business. It was only June 30.

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A week later, the delta variant took hold and cases and hospitalizations soared. In response, Gov. Kate Brown reluctantly reimposed a statewide mask requirement for indoor spaces.

Here’s what she didn’t do: order a new shutdown of indoor restaurants, bars and other businesses. Oregon is still open for business, but Oregonians are once again being asked to wear masks inside.

That’s frustrating for everyone, but it’s not the end of the world. We’ve been there before, and we know the drill.

It’s especially frustrating for businesses, many of which were coming back to life as customers returned. They’re still open, still serving customers, but now asking patrons to don masks once again. An added burden is the struggle to rehire staff amid a nationwide shortage of workers willing to take retail and service jobs.

That can mean slow service and reduced hours, adding to the frustration of customers eager to patronize their favorite stores and eateries.

We’ve written before about the importance of supporting locally owned small businesses with your dollars. Even big-box retailers and national restaurant chains employ local residents, whose paychecks are spent in the local economy. But the big companies are better able to weather temporary disruptions such as mask mandates and staff shortages.

Local businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy. The profits generated are reinvested in the local business, not sent off to corporate headquarters. And local owners spend their incomes here as well.

Deciding whether to spend time shopping and dining in local establishments is of course a matter of personal choice. If you are not comfortable in public given the recent surge in COVID cases, no one will think less of you for choosing to stay home.

But if you do go out, make a point of giving your business to Main Street rather than Wall Street. And honor those businesses’ decisions about masks and distancing. They are trying to protect their employees and their patrons, while doing their best to serve their customers.

And one final note: Remember that those who wait on you or ring up your purchases are working under less-than-ideal conditions, and likely harder than ever before.

Many local businesses have posted signs explaining to customers that they are short-staffed. It may be harder to find an employee to help you with your shopping, or take longer before a server comes to your table to take your order. You may have to wait longer for your meal to arrive, as the kitchen is likely short-handed, too.

This should go without saying, but don’t take out your frustration on those serving you. They are doing their best to satisfy their customers, and don’t deserve to be blamed for circumstances beyond their control.