As kids make their way back to school next week, local businesses in Windsor-Essex hope it’s a sign of reopening the economy.

Gyms have been open for only four months in the past year.

“I do believe that if our government has allowed our kids to go back to school and teachers to be subjected to hundreds of children every single day, then I should be able to get people to work out safely without issue,” says Amy Howe, owner of Howe Fit.

According to its recent polling, The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says only one in five Ontario small businesses are making pre-pandemic sales.

And only one in three are at full staffing levels.

“Our small businesses, all small businesses should be open,” says Nancy George, owner of Windsor Beauty Supply.

George has six locations in Southern Ontario and says her 76 employees are ready to get back to work.

“We need to get our economy going,” she says. “We are the backbone of our economy.”

Encouraging levels at Windsor Regional Hospital could bode well for small business owners who want to open.

The hospital currently has 29 patients with COVID-19, the lowest since Dec. 11th.

The hospital has six empty critical care beds out of about 50, another small, but important improvement from just a couple weeks ago.

Kim Spirou believes her business, Brush Salon, has almost reached the point of no return, if she can’t reopen soon.

“There isn’t the help for small businesses like mine, and frankly I can’t hang on much longer and if we don’t get back to work, I may have to close,” Spirou tells CTV Windsor.

Local medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says he hasn’t spoken to the Ford government about reopening Windsor-Essex.

But a full reopen as kids go back to school seems unlikely.

“We do have a high number of cases compared to where we’d like to see in the green or the yellow zone,” he says.

Ahmed says the health unit will look at the situation, while keeping community safety a priority.