The Small Business Guide to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

The Asheville Chamber has decided to cancel all face-to-face meetings and events through April 29th and our staff are working remotely. Read more about our response here.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory illness in mammals and birds. They are not uncommon; in fact, the last time that you had a cold, it was probably a strain of coronavirus. The virus can occasionally cause pneumonia or bronchitis in older adults or those with a weakened immunse system. The most common strains of coronavirus are 229E, NL643, OC43,and HKU1.

SARS-CoV-2 is the strain of virus that is commonly referred to in the news as the coronavirus. It is a previously unseen strain of coronavirus, and different from the strains that cause regular colds. The first outbreak was recorded in China in late 2019. As of March 3rd, 92,000+ cases have been confirmed; of those, only 8% have been classified as serious.

How does it spread, and who is at risk?

Coronaviruses as a whole are thought to spread mainly via the respiratory droplets in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can also survive for up to 36 hours on most surfaces.

As of Marth 10th, there are 10 presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in N.C.

Buncombe County has not had any positive cases.

What are the current recommendations for staying safe?

  1. Wash your hands frequently, and for at least 20 seconds. Sing the ABCs or happy birthday. 
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  3. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, or use your elbow. Avoid shaking hands and hugging. Don’t reuse tissues.
  4. Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched – think doorknobs, keyboards, faucets, etc.
  5. Protect your immune system – take zinc supplements, drink enough water, and get plenty of rest.
  6. Pick up a few extra non-perishables during each trip to the grocery store.

Should I buy masks or hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer, yes. Masks, no. At this time, masks are recommended for healthcare professionals only.

Preparing for COVID-19 as a small business

Plan for the local economy to be affected by coronavirus. These affects will likely include decreases in consumer demand, less foot traffic and walk-in business if you are downtown, and increased employee absence. Our small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy; nearly half of the U.S. workforce is employed by small business owners.

Here are some recommendations:

Encourage employees who think they might be sick to stay home. Employees who have respiratory illness symptoms should not return to work until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours. Don’t require a doctor’s note for employee absence; healthcare providers and medical facilities will probably become busier in the coming weeks, and unable to produce documentation.

Maintain flexible policies. Employees may need to work from home more than usual to take care of kids and family members in addition to their own health needs.

Regularly sanitize the workplace. Focus on bathrooms, door handles, keyboards and mice, etc. Provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for employees, and make sure hand sanitizer is readily available in the office.

The CDC has created an Interim Guide for small businesses and employers with more detailed recommendations for how to prepare your workplace and formulate a plan for a potential local outbreak.

SBA Disaster Relief Loans for Small Businesses

Small businesses impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible for recovery funding. The SBA is offering designated states and territories up to $2 million in low-interest Disaster Relief Loans to help businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. According to the loan terms, the money can be used to pay debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills businesses may be struggling to pay because of the virus’ impact. The interest rate varies depending on credit score and nonprofit status.

The SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance will coordinate with state Governors to submit the request for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance. For more information, call 1-800-659-2955 or email

Resources to learn more about Coronavirus and stay updated

Read more about COVID-19 on Buncombe County’s Health and Human Services website

Get COVID-19 Information and Preparedness at Buncombe County Emergency Services site

Keep up with global updates on the virus on the World Health Organization’s website

Read more about preventing the spread of COVID-19 on the Center for Disease Control’s website