The coronavirus pandemic has hit local businesses in the Cowichan Valley hard, a recently released survey shows. The Cowichan Valley Regional District and Cowichan Strong, a partnership group that includes the Economic Development Cowichan, the Duncan Cowichan Chamber of Commerce and Community Futures Cowichan, has released results from its Post Disaster Needs Assessment survey, which assessed the impacts of COVID-19 on the region’s business community. According to results from the survey, which was completed by a total of 70 business owners and operators from across the region between May 19-27, 62 per cent of survey respondents saw their April 2020 revenues decline by at least 75 per cent compared to their April 2019 revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, 56 per cent of respondents indicated they either closed temporarily or shut down indefinitely, while three per cent, or two businesses, were forced to permanently close because of COVID-19. The survey results were released by the regional district earlier this week. “Cowichan businesses have been sharply impacted by COVID-19,” the CVRD said in its findings about the survey. Although the survey asked businesses questions about the immediate impacts of COVID-19, it also asked businesses a number of other questions. According to the Cowichan Valley Regional District, all of the businesses that were surveyed indicated that they had changed their business model in some fashion in order to continue operating amid the pandemic. Survey results show that 30 per cent of respondents incorporated online shopping or ordering options, while 24 per cent started offering delivery options. Less than 20 per cent of respondents, however, said they were allowing employees to work remotely. Meanwhile, 57 per cent of respondents said operational health and safety was the greatest challenges for them returning to regular business operations, while 35 per cent indicated financial as the greatest challenge for them. When it came to potential long-term changes to their business models that they intend to keep even after the COVID-19 pandemic, 33 per cent of respondents said they intend to increase their participation in the digital economy, and 36 per cent said they will leave their increased sanitation procedures and other precautionary measures in place. However, 41 per cent of respondents indicated that they don’t have the tools to withstand future economic shocks. The survey also asked respondents about their mental and physical wellbeing. According to the CVRD, 31 per cent of respondents indicated they were stressed or very stressed, and 26 per cent of respondents said they felt either exhausted or experienced anxiety or depression. Nearly 30 per cent of respondents, however, said they are feeling resilient and believe there is “light at the end of the tunnel.” The CVRD said the results will be used to “identify local business needs at a point in time” and will help guide their economic recovery planning processes. They also said the results will allow them to lobby the provincial government on behalf of Cowichan businesses and are planning more surveys in the future. The Cowichan Valley Regional District covers a geographical area of 3,473.12 square kilometres that includes the municipalities of Duncan, North Cowichan, Lake Cowichan and Ladysmith. The entire survey and its results can be viewed here. For more information, visit here.