We’re entering uncharted territory.

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency in Virginia in an effort to help curtail the spread of COVID-19, the Corona virus.

Here, at the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce, we quickly heeded the governor’s calls for caution and promptly postponed all our events scheduled through the end of March.

Our State of the Community originally scheduled for March 25 has been pushed to May 13 at 7:30 a.m. at the Country Club of Culpeper. We have postponed the scheduled Meet the President/CEO mixer until a later date, and we’ve held off on our scheduled ribbon cuttings for the month. Since then, the Center for Disease Control has announced a recommended eight-week moratorium on gatherings of more than 80 people. That puts our April Women’s Lift event into jeopardy, and we expect to announce a new date for it soon.

Certainly, postponing these events are an inconvenience but they don’t affect the day-to-day operations of the Chamber. However, our local small businesses are being harmed by the effects of the virus and we urge the community to continue to help our neighbors.

Restaurants have had to cease serving meals in their dining rooms, instead offering only take out or delivery. Some are offering curbside service for customers to help alleviate fears.

We’ve heard from other small businesses that they worry about the unintended consequences a self-quarantine presents. One of the solutions we’ve heard, which we wholeheartedly endorse, is to purchase gift cards for small businesses now – and utilize them once everything returns to a sense of normalcy.

On Pepper’s Grill Facebook page, the business encouraged the public to purchase gift cards as more and more people practice social distancing. “While we will survive, many will not. Due to a decrease in dining out, we may have to cut our staff hours which will reduce their pay,” a post on their page read. “Worst case scenario, we may be forced to close our business for a few days if the virus hits Culpeper. As we take necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, venturing out in our community to support small businesses can seem daunting. One way you can continue to support Pepper’s Grill over the next several weeks is by buying a gift certificate now that can be used later.”

We encourage the public to help small businesses by purchasing as many gift cards as possible – use them in the future, use them as gifts and help keep our neighbors thriving. Place your order online or call and see if the business is willing to do pickup – at this point in time I’m sure they’d be happy to!

Multiple businesses and groups are posting deals and solutions to this situation on Facebook. Be sure to keep checking the Culpeper Chamber of Commerce Facebook page as we share these posts.

We understand these are difficult, trying times. Everyone is uncertain about the future, but we must be vigilant in working together and supporting our friends and neighbors. We must continue to help support our local small businesses so that once life returns to normal, we are all able to enjoy it together.