Nadol Hishmeh stands behind the bar at Olive on Main, a restaurant he co-owns with his brother in Laurel, Maryland. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Nadol Hishmeh stands behind the bar at Olive on Main, a restaurant he co-owns with his brother in Laurel, Maryland. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Prince George’s County small-business owners such as Mike Silver don’t mind the stay-at-home order remaining in effect through June 1.

Although Silver decreased his personnel from nine employees pre-coronavirus to currently five and his call volume shrunk by 70 percent, the one word he and other merchants uttered: safety.

“I am supporting my officials who are smarter than me in making the right decisions,” said Silver, who acquired McDonald Towing in Hyattsville in 1990. “Although we have suffered, we appreciate County Executive [Angela] Alsobrooks and others doing a phenomenal job in protecting the residents. We are ready and eager to do business as usual.”

Prince George’s, which leads the state of Maryland in most confirmed coronavirus cases, joins three other jurisdictions in Maryland – Montgomery and Charles counties and Baltimore City – in not following the other 20 counties in reopening some businesses after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan lifted the state’s stay-at-home home last week.

Charles County plans to incorporate the first phase of Hogan’s recovery plan on March 29. Officials in Montgomery and Baltimore, which rank second and fourth in the state among confirmed cases, will maintain stay at home policies until further notice.

Hogan instituted the first of the three-phrase “Maryland Roadmap to Recovery” plan based on a decline of hospitalizations. But on Saturday, May 16, the first full day of the reopening of businesses, the state health department reported a one-day increase of confirmed cases to 982.

According to the new “Safe at Home” advisory, some businesses must remain at 50 percent capacity or less. Churches and houses of worship are encouraged to hold outdoor religious services and activities.

Most importantly, employees and customers inside businesses and on public transportation must wear masks and other face coverings.

“For most counties in Maryland, it’s the first full day of Stage One of recovery— and a gorgeous day to practice social distancing,” Hogan tweeted Saturday.

As confirmed cases continue to increase, merchants remain one of the most affected groups losing hundreds of thousands of dollars without customers inside restaurants, lack of male bonding at barbershops and limited retail sales.

Lendana Construction Co., a Black-owned family business of Upper Marlboro, continues to maintain its grind. The business, which specializes in brick and block work, usually maintains between four to 36 people on a specific job.

From left: Linwood Williams, owner of Lendana Construction Co., his wife Ardania Willilams and their son, Linwood P. Williams Jr. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

The company currently has a four-man crew for a project at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, certain jobs with a bigger crew must now operate with no more than four people at a time on weekly shifts to maintain social distancing requirements.

“That has been a challenge. Normally you would have 30 to 40 men on site,” said Ardania Williams, vice president of marketing and development for the construction firm. “We operate in trying to get a job done, but keeping safety first.”

Because Hogan allowed for each jurisdiction local autonomy, a few jurisdictions will follow the state’s new “Safe at Home” advisory that eases some restrictions.

For instance, Baltimore County allowed retail stores to open, but for curbside pick up only. Barbershops, salons and indoor religious services and activities remain close.

Campgrounds and boat rentals remain closed in Howard County, but stores in the Mall at Columbia with outdoor access can open with curbside pickup or delivery only.

Although the Maryland Chamber of Commerce supports Hogan’s leadership during the pandemic, it expressed concern for each jurisdiction to implement its own set of guidelines.

“This patchwork approach could prove detrimental for employers and their employees, who are already in the midst of navigating a difficult and evolving crisis situation,” Christine Ross, president and CEO of the chamber, said in a May 13 statement. “As we continue to steadfastly advocate for our members, who are anxious to return to work, we continue to urge the governor to actively communicate and engage with members of the business community throughout each stage of the recovery process.”

In the meantime, Olive on Main Street in Laurel continues to receive support in carryout and delivery orders.

Nadol Himsheh, 38, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother, said the rising costs of items such as chicken and poultry make it challenging and a bit expensive to operate. Also, they decreased the number of staff currently on payroll from about 16 to six.

However, he supports Alsobrooks’ decision to keep the stay-at-home order in effect. Himsheh’s parents live in the 20783 zip code in the Hyattsville area, which continues to record the highest number of confirmed cases based on zip code in the state.

“I’m a business owner and I want to succeed, but from a comfort level standpoint I can’t open right now,” he said. “I feel our county executive is strong-willed to not open up right now. I am pleased she did that and not pressured to do the opposite.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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