I live in Michigan, which like California, Illinois, New York, and an increasing number of other states, has now ordered many small businesses--including restaurants and bars--to close for the foreseeable future. That comes after the CDC issued guidance to eliminate all gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

That can be devastating to communities and the individuals who own and work in all sorts of small businesses that are now forced to close their doors. The good news is that there is still plenty you can do to support them. 

Here are seven things you can do right now to support your small-business community:

1. Order Takeout or Delivery

Your favorite restaurants may have had to shut their doors, but many of them still offer takeout or delivery. Not only does that keep the business going, it also provides income for delivery drivers. Services like Grubhub and DoorDash have sent information to customers and drivers to help ensure safe--and in some cases, contact-less--deliveries. 

2. Buy Gift Cards

Want to inject some cash into a small business right now? Buy a gift card. Even if you aren't buying anything else because you're stuck at home, you can give your local shops or favorite restaurant a vote of confidence by spending even $25 on a gift card to use later, when life returns to normal.

3. Shop Local Businesses Online

Many local businesses have online stores in addition to their brick-and-mortar locations. Whenever possible, consider giving them your business. The delivery option applies here as well, with grocery stores in many locations offering Shipt. 

While I'm a fan of shopping local when you can, keep in mind that as long as you are buying from someone in your community, you're helping to keep people in their jobs. 

4. Use Credit or Debit Cards

When you do go shopping, use a credit or debit card instead of cash. Paper money and coins pass through so many hands and carry all types of germs. Limiting the amount of cash you use can help limit the spread of those germs, which is especially important right now.

5. Stay Home if You're Sick

Don't put others at risk if you're sick. That seems like common sense, but consider using a delivery service if there's something you really need. Many of the small businesses in your community are working hard to get through this. The last thing they need is for their employees to get sick because a customer went out when they shouldn't have.

6. Be Patient

In many cases, businesses are working at a dramatically reduced capacity. There's a good chance that you'll experience longer waits or encounter out-of-stock items. Trust me, every business is feeling that pain. They want nothing more than to be able to meet your needs. When they can't, extend a little grace and patience, remembering that they're working hard to stay open and serve their community.

7. Say Thank You

When you do go to the grocery store to buy what you need (as opposed to hoarding toilet paper), be sure to say thanks to the employees who are hard at work stocking shelves. It can be easy to forget that many of those employees are working overtime to keep their store clean and full of the food and supplies customers need. A simple thank you can go a long way to spreading a little gratitude and goodwill. 

Which, as opposed to spreading germs, is something we could all use a little more of right now. 

Editor's note: Presently, a group-gifting platform that gives people an easy way to contribute together to a single gift, and is covering credit-card fees for group gifts on its platform through April. The startup offers these further ideas on its blog:  
6 Group Gifts That Support Small Businesses During COVID-19

Published on: Mar 16, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.