Shaw: Celebrating those who put safety over profit

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

While protesters in North Dakota, Minnesota and elsewhere foolishly demand that businesses re-open before it’s safe, it’s time to give credit to those businesses that have closed. It’s tough for them.

Businesses such as Village West Barber Stylists in Fargo. It’s the Cheers bar of barber shops. The two barbers know your name, and what’s happening with your family. It’s a friendly and quaint place, where customers either make appointments or just walk in. Orlan Rokke, 76, of Fargo, has owned and operated Village West Barbers for 46 years.

Rokke normally cuts the hair of 15 to 20 people a day. However, his barber shop has been closed, by order of Gov.r Burgum, for about a month. “I miss it quite a bit,” Rokke said. “I miss the customers. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the small talk and conversations. A lot of things that are said in the barber shop, stay in the barber shop.”


Still, Rokke agrees with the decision to shut them down. “It’s necessary for the safety of the general public,” Rokke said. “We work very close to our customers, and we don’t want to take the chance of spreading the coronavirus around.”
Rokke is going a little stir crazy at home, and says he expects to be wearing masks when they re-open. “I would feel safer wearing masks,” Rokke said. “It’s a frustrating and helpless feeling now. I can’t wait to go back.”


Following the recommendations of the American Dental Association and the North Dakota Dental Association, local dental offices have voluntarily closed. Thousands of patients have gone untreated, and hundreds of workers have had to stay home. Fargo dentists say being closed now is a necessity.

“The likelihood of something happening to patients or team members is pretty high,” said Dr. Walter Samuel of South University Dental Associates. “It’s a high risk environment. Most of our patients understand this.”

“We need to protect our patients and our team players,” said Dr. James Johnson of Saving Smiles Dentistry. “This pandemic is brand new and unprecedented. Because this is new, we don’t know exactly how it’s spread.”

Nevertheless, Johnson, Samuel and their team members courageously come in every day to treat emergencies. Before being treated, those patients are thoroughly questioned, their temperatures are taken, and they wait in their cars until the dentists are ready for them. The dentists are also trying to get face shields and disposable gowns. “We have an obligation to help our patients in emergencies,” Johnson said. “There’s always a risk as a provider that you can get infected.”

“We’re willing to take a risk in an emergency situation,” Samuel said. “I look at those patients as family members.”

Even though I’m follicly challenged, I’m in desperate need of a haircut. I’m also overdue for a dentist appointment. I can wait. I feel terrible for the financial hit suffered by those businesses and others. They are dedicated professionals. Rokke, Dr. Johnson and Dr. Samuel will know when it’s safe to re-open.

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