SAULT STE. MARIE -- Thirty-seven percent of businesses in Sault Ste. Marie say COVID-19 could shut them down.

That's according to the latest results from a survey, conducted by the city and the Algoma Workforce Investment Corporation.

"Certainly that's shocking to us, that we could experience a tremendous downside to the work that we do in setting up businesses and getting them operational," said Dan Hollingsworth, Executive Director with the city.

"Obviously we don't know when we'll be able to reopen, so this is a very delicate time."

44 per cent of the 622 respondents surveyed say the pandemic has a "medium" impact on their businesses, meaning it will significantly impact their financials.

Additionally, respondents who were asked about the size of their workforce said they've had to lay off 40 per cent of their staff, in response to the pandemic.

"Looking forward, how do we re-employ those folks will be a challenge," Hollingsworth said.

"We'll have to evaluate what supports we have for sure and what we can create for future workplace development strategies at the city."

Hollingsworth says a second survey will go out for the month of May, to see how the situation has changed.

Future surveys will also be commissioned, if the city feels they're needed to assess the situation further.