Nine-year-old Sam Hirschey of Staples hands Betty Erbe a coffee to go March 18, curbside service offered at Stomping Grounds coffee shop in Staples since the mandatory shutdown of sitdown eating establishments March 17. Customers are asked to call the Stomping Grounds to place their order and someone will bring it to them. Sam is the son of Lindsey Hirshey, owner of the coffee shop. He was able to help his mom that day since schools have also been closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. For the time

The effects of COVID-19 in Staples and Motley

By Dawn Timbs

Staples World reporter


‘Practice social distancing,’ ‘Wash your hands,’ ‘Sneeze into your elbow’ are phrases that have worked their way into vocabularies of most everyone on the planet these past few weeks, ever since coronavirus COVID-19 hit the scene.

Now a pandemic outbreak, the novel coronavirus that first started in China last December has gone on to affect 195 countries, including the United States. As of March 23, 15,000 deaths have been reported worldwide, with 400 of those deaths taking place on U.S. soil. The first death in Minnesota (Ramsey County) was reported on March 21. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 235 cases have been reported in the state as of March 23. A total of 31 counties have reported cases of the coronavirus, including Cass County.

It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, religious or not...according to health experts, no one is immune from COVID-19.  

Concerted efforts have been and continue to be made worldwide, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In the past week, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has given executive orders to temporarily close all schools, non-essential businesses, as well as dine-in restaurants and bars to aid in these efforts. On March 23, the governor announced that he will self-quarantine after being exposed to coronavirus.

Although there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in the Staples and Motley areas, its effects can still be felt.

For those whose daily routine involves visiting one of the local restaurants or bars, the temporary closure, which went into effect March 17, is a definite change in lifestyle.

Sharon Rudie, a bartender at B & B’s in Staples, said she is supportive of this order which will hopefully help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. “It’s good to put a cap on it, get it over with,” she said.

It’s the social aspect they’ll miss the most, said Duane and Tammy Etzler of Staples, regulars at Lefty’s bar in Staples. “They know what we want as soon as we get here,” Duane laughed, going on to say that he always orders a ‘Captain and Coke’ and Tammy orders a screwdriver. Sure, they can make the drinks at home, but it’s not the same as being at Lefty’s with their friends.

Orv Meyer of Staples has been a part of the Table of Knowledge coffee klatch at Burger King in Staples for quite a few years. “I go every day except Sunday,” he said recently, adding that it’s been a “big switch” since March 17. It’s the camaraderie he misses the most, Meyer said. He and his wife, Marge, have been staying home and avoiding crowds. Since there’s no place to go at this time, their social agenda involves more things like playing games and putting puzzles together.

In addition to the social aspect, employees of restaurants, bars and other non-essential businesses are worried about the economic impact of this temporary closure. 

Larken Hirschey of Staples has two jobs in the hospitality industry. She waitresses at Los Corrales and is a barista at Stomping Grounds coffee shop, both in Staples. Since neither job is salaried, she’s a bit worried about how to make ends meet if the closure extends for a long period of time. Some of her work friends have already filed for unemployment, Hirschey said, adding that she wasn’t sure if she would do that or not. In the meantime, she said she was going to look at the positive side of things. “I’ll have more time to spend with my dogs,” she said with a smile.

For Roger Houselog, longtime owner of Tower Pizza in Staples, the temporary closure will most likely result in loss of income. So far, the governor has not banned take-out orders or curbside service, for which Houselog is grateful. He delivered a few to-go orders last week to customers, Houselog shared, adding that he got teary-eyed a time or two during his trips. “Thanks for not forgetting us,” he told the customers.

As an essential business, grocery stores have been busy these past few weeks, with reports of customers stocking up on toilet paper, hand-sanitizers, canned goods and meat products. “Sales have been up,” said Jon Miller, owner of Jon’s Family Foods in Staples. 

Fear seems to be what’s driving the toilet paper sales in particular, Miller said. There is also a shortage recently on meat supplies and fresh vegetable items like lettuce and carrots. Their supplier has the product, but they don’t have the staff to keep the trucks filled (due to the increased demand of grocery items) and make the deliveries, Miller said.

Undoubtedly, there will be more reports as to the effects of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, as COVID-19 continues to spread.

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