Amidst surge in COVID-19 cases, local businesses struggle

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Raymond LeGrue, owner of Henry’s Great Alaskan Restaurant, says that keeping regular hours for his restaurant during a pandemic has been a challenge.

“This most recent episode, when we restricted our hours, we had some people that were sick, but tested positive. We had several other employees that went up to get tested,” LeGrue said.

He says that despite having only two staff members with COVID, he shut down the restaurant for two days and reduced hours for several more for staff to get tested. They have been operating with reduced hours this week, as staffers who are sick or close contacts of sick people have been waiting to get tested for COVID-19.

LeGrue says it’s not just staffing; there’s also supply chain issues.

“Currently we have our menu at the printers because we’re pulling off some menu items. One in particular is Texas toothpicks, which is a very popular item on our menu but extremely hard for us to keep in inventory- because the COVID is affecting the factories that are producing the food,” LeGrue said.

But it’s not just restaurants having a hard time keeping open. Maridol Brown owns Kodiak’s family-owned grocery Cactus Flats, which had to close its doors temporarily and only recently reopened with reduced hours.

“It has been affecting us tremendously. There’s a lot of debate with a mask, no mask, I had so many unhappy customers. No, willing to wear the mask. So a lot of stress. Because of that. But yes. And now, I have no staff out of five. Everybody’s sick,” Brown said.

She travelled over the holidays, and returned to find her entire staff out sick with COVID. She waited at home until she tested negative post-travel, and it was only then that she could reopen her store. Running a grocery store with one person is a tough job, and she can’t operate alone at the hours it was running previously.

“It’s hard. Especially because I do understand my staff, they want to come back to work. I have a very responsible and very reliable staff right now. And it’s hard on them too, you know, not being able to be here at work,” Brown said.

She says there’s only one way out of this dark spot of the pandemic.

“If everybody complies with the masks and does their part, it’ll be easier. I think by now we should all know that. This COVID is here to stay for a while. And we just need to wear our masks and be careful. And that’s the bottom line,” Brown said.

Active cases continue to skyrocket in Kodiak, doubling the highest point of the previous wave of COVID.

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