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OPINION

Many of us who bucked wearing masks bear a bit of responsibility for Topeka businesses forced to close their doors

By The Editorial Advisory Board
Emil Spaeth, owner of The Brass Rail tavern

It’s difficult to keep from shedding a tear at the closure of The Brass Rail Tavern, at 401 N.E. Emmett St. Topeka’s oldest bar, the business was finally forced to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Topeka Capital-Journal’s India Yarborough, about a dozen businesses in the city have closed during the pandemic. And the most recent reports from the county health department suggest that things aren’t getting better anytime soon. In the first week of January, Shawnee County saw record numbers of coronavirus cases.

This leads to a difficult but inescapable conclusion: The difficulties of local businesses are, to some extent, our fault.

If we had all masked up when told to, if we had also socially distanced the way medical experts recommended, if we had all washed our hands and avoided crowds, we could have brought Topeka’s numbers down. We could have helped local businesses. Even without a vaccine, we could have brought back some sort of normal.

But people are selfish and short-sighted. And a disease that supposedly only affects the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses (a mistaken impression) isn’t taken seriously. Mask ordinances are laughed at or fought bitterly. The disease takes the opportunity to spread, more people fall ill, and businesses close.

So if you don’t want to mourn more businesses, wear a mask.

For that matter, make sure to order takeout or buy a gift card. If you treasure something in your community, then for goodness sake show up to support it. Don’t expect it to be there forever simply because it looms large in your memory.

Thankfully, there are spots of light amid the gloom. Take video game developer Tyler Jaggers, who moved to Topeka from California through the Choose Topeka relocation initiative. He’s used the opportunity to develop and release his latest game.

"Topeka seemed to have a good blend of access to internet, access to freeways. There's a commercial area, Wanamaker Road. There's lots of stuff going on," he told Yarborough. "With COVID and everything, what's really the difference between a big city if you have internet?"

In other words, even in these difficult days, we can look to creative innovators to lift and enhance our community. They won’t replace all that we’ve lost, but they show that Topeka has much to offer. If we truly work together and put the good of us all ahead of the moment, we can truly achieve something great.