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Local businesses start to feel impact of coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 23:49:45-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The impact of the coronavirus is being felt in Kansas City, from hospitals to restaurants and stores.

The virus caused the cancellation of the Big 12 Tournament, meaning fewer people to eat, shop and spend money to fuel the local economy.

On Friday afternoon, the number of customers at Ragazza on 43rd Street and Main Street dwindled.

"We're sitting here in a sort of empty room, so that's a little bit worrysome for sure," said Laura Norris, owner of Ragazza, "We have six hotels within walking distance from our location and those people aren't there."

Norris told 41 Action News her reservations are down by almost 30 percent this weekend as they had a lot of corporate party cancellations.

This loss of money forcing impending hard decisions.

"We're looking at having sort of a bare-boned staff if we need to, but the problem is with that is that these people have families to support, too, you know? I don't want to cut back their hours because that hurts them," Norris said.

It's a tough new reality several businesses are faced with as restaurants and retailers are expected to be the hardest industries hit.

"People's hours are going to get cut. You got waiters and waitresses and service people and entertainment establishments, you got conventions that provide catering jobs for people and with all that shutting down, those persons still have to earn a living," said Clyde McQueen, president of the Full Employment Council.

It's a unique situation for McQueen, too, as he prepares for a possible influx of new job seekers.

"I've been in this field for 40 years and this is the first time I've ever been in this situation like this," he said.

To deal with the coronavirus, McQueen said they had to cut job fairs and training courses. His concern is finding jobs for those who are laid off.

"We've got to be able to try and help them get other transitional employment. Help them, because a lot of them don't have sick leave either," McQueen said.

The situation is changing by the hour.

"You have to just take a deep breath and try to not worry too much," Norris said.

41 Action News also reached out to Oddly Correct, a coffee shop on Westport Road and Main Street. Owner Mike Schroeder provided the following statement:

“In addition to following already strict guidelines for cleaning and sanitation of wares and surfaces at our shop, we felt a need to address a big barrier to the health of both our employees and customers. If an employee knows their livelihood will be put in jeopardy by being unable to work due to illness, this incentivizes bringing that illness into the workplace and exposing others to possible contagions. So in light of the ongoing public health crisis that is COVID-19, we’re adding paid sick leave of 35 hours every calendar year for every employee effective immediately. This will allow anyone who becomes sick to properly recuperate and keep our other employees and customers from being exposed to any illness.”