Without the support of all of us, many local businesses we know and love could be gone following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much information has been shared about coronavirus disease 2019, also referred to as COVID-19. Some of that information is true, and some is speculation.

One thing is certain … this pandemic will create great challenges for the very organizations this space in The Canton Repository is reserved for — locally owned and operated businesses here in our community.

Innis Maggiore has proudly demonstrated our support for these local businesses for years. It’s why we created — and why we assemble and maintain — the Local Business Spotlight features seen every other week here in this newspaper.

After all, the agency itself is a locally owned business.

BuyLocal collage

As we’ve consistently stated — and will continue to believe — local businesses are the lifeblood of every community, including ours.

This week, we’re taking the opportunity to encourage all residents of Stark County to support our neighbors and friends during this time of nationwide crisis.

“Now, more than ever, it’s critical for us to support local businesses,” said Innis Maggiore President and CEO Dick Maggiore. “If they don’t make it through this crisis, they may never return.”

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s. Many involve serious respiratory tract infections. COVID-19 is no exception.

The first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed Nov. 17, 2019 in Wuhan, China. The virus spread rapidly. At press time, there were about 81,000 cases of COVID-19 reported in China and more than 3,200 deaths related to those cases.

Signs now indicate the spread of COVID-19 has slowed significantly in China. Some reports indicate there are now more cases outside of China than within.

COVID-19 quickly spread to several other nations, with Italy being the next-hardest hit. Italy’s first case of COVID-19 was Jan. 31. Now, the country is on lockdown with nearly 25,000 coronavirus cases and more than 1,800 deaths.

The first COVID-19 case in the U.S. was discovered Jan. 20. To slow the spread here, travel to and from China was banned. More recently, COVID-19 was declared a national emergency.

Further travel bans have been put in place since, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now encourages organizers to cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the U.S.

The stock market has taken hits not seen in decades, thus resulting in even more panic.

Naturally, things are changing at the state and local level, too. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order Mar. 12 postponing or cancelling gatherings of 100 people or more. The governor ordered all restaurants and bars to close indefinitely as of 9 p.m. Sunday, a damaging blow for many local business owners.

It certainly wasn’t an easy decision.

“I’m aware that this will impact many, many good workers,” the governor said in a tweet. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, but we will work to mitigate the suffering. It is our goal to get everyone through this.”

There are sure to be further bans and restrictions moving forward. Each making it tougher for the local businesses we love to survive.

Getting through this won’t be easy. Local businesses need our support more than ever.

“We encourage all Stark County residents to do whatever they can to support local businesses during this time of crisis,” said Maggiore. “We have an opportunity to make more of a difference now than we’ve ever had.”

Here are some ways you can help:

• Order takeout from locally-owned restaurants, and don’t forget to leave a nice tip.
• Shop at local grocery stores.
• Buy items at your neighborhood hardware store.
• Get your medications and health items from the local drug store.
• Buy locally produced beer, wine and distilled beverages.
• Pick up your favorite sweet treats at the local candy company.
• Grab a dozen donuts and other baked goods from the family-owned shop down the street.
• Stock up on locally made MID’S pasta sauce, Shearer’s chips, Nickles bread, Superior’s or Sugardale meats, and Smith’s or Superior dairy products.
• Use a local accountant to tackle your tax return.
• And if you’re a business, consider supporting other locally owned businesses.

This list was created to help generate ideas on how you can support local in this time of crisis. Be creative … there are dozens more ways you can lend a hand.

We don’t know what the future will hold.

We simply ask that you do your part by supporting local businesses in the coming months as things continue to get more challenging.

We promise to keep doing the same.