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I don’t want to be the bearer of bad tidings and I don’t think of myself as a doomsayer because I’ve always been a pretty optimistic fellow, but in light of the recent news and reactions by organizations to deal with COVID-19 (aka, coronavirus), I think it’s important to state what some of the ramifications may be in the coming days and months. At present, the spread of the virus, now labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization is demonstrating its power to drastically affect not only the U.S. economy but economies around the world and it has the potential to bring each of them to their knees.
Out of an abundance of caution, the NBA has suspended indefinitely the remainder of its season. The NHL has announced that it will issue a statement tomorrow whether it will follow suit. As of this writing, other scheduled sporting events are canceling in a falling domino pattern. The pressure to cancel the Tokyo Olympics will likely increase. Various scheduled golf events, The Masters slated for next month for example, may be canceled and a travel ban may prohibit the participation of golfers from Europe and Asia if it remains scheduled as planned.
The NCAA has announced that fans will be barred from attending both the men’s and women’s basketball tournament games. Players’ families and necessary team staff and courtside officials only. In light of the NBA’s decision, this may change and there is a possibility that all March Madness games may be canceled. In the sports world alone, this means the loss of revenue for concessionaires, hoteliers, security and arena staff, airlines, taxi companies, Uber, Lyft, local restaurants and bars, and other support services and venues. It also means the suspension or outright loss of revenue for the major sports networks – ESPN, FoxSports and others.
Colleges and universities around the country have told students not to return to campus after Spring Break and that courses will be conducted online, even as some students are still on campus in dormitories or huddling in off-campus housing. College towns have the potential of severe revenue loss. As an example, Westwood Village is a collection of stores, restaurants, bars, and movie theaters that sits on the southern edge of the UCLA campus. It’s safe to say that a good portion of the Westwood patrons are students. This campus-adjacent business community is replicated several hundred times in college towns across America. So, the question that arises if sports arenas, stadiums or gymnasiums are prone to propagate COVID-19, then how safe is a crowded bar or restaurant? And not just a crowded bar or restaurant in a college town but any bar or restaurant in America? And will the time come very soon when cities, municipalities or states around the country begin mandating that certain venues where the public gather be temporarily closed until further notice? Eateries? Theaters? Shopping malls? K-12 schools? How many scheduled trade shows will cancel? How much more loss to the hospitality industry when flights and hotel reservations are cancelled in turn? Will the lights dim on Broadway in New York? Will crowded casinos in Vegas, Reno, Tahoe, Atlantic City, and elsewhere be less so?
If schools begin to close, working parents may have to stay home with their kids. If companies have the ability to allow some workers to work from home, they will. But other workers – in manufacturing positions, construction, various service industries who don’t sit a desk in front of a computer may still be required to show up to their work locations. Will one parent in a two-parent household have to take a leave or quit their job altogether in order to care for their kids at home? What does that mean for loss of wages and inability to pay for food, utilities, mortgages, or monthly rents?
We’ve already seen or witnessed panic-buying in stores, particularly the large, wholesale warehouse stores like Costco and Walmart. Will those crowded stores be deemed unsafe for contracting the virus? Will the stores have to institute a system where only a designated number of shoppers can be in the store at any given time? Will each store patron have to be checked for their temperature to see if they’re running a fever? Will shoppers be turned away? Will shoppers have to schedule an appointment to shop? Do you have stock in Amazon? It’s likely that buying groceries, vitamins, and household products online will increase sharply. So, you may be seeing more of those smiley Amazon trucks in your neighborhood.
It seems to me that regardless whether you think that the NBA, the NCAA, or other sports leagues are being overly cautious or whether they are being properly cautious, they may be the tip of societal spear as it were because they’ve essentially communicated that any venue where numerous people are gathered cannot be deemed a safe refuge from the virus. And that has ramifications for any venue where people gather or frequent – from your local grocery store, your local fitness center, your favorite restaurant or bar, the cineplex, schools, PTA meetings, city council meetings, commuter trains and buses, airlines (which have already taken a major hit), and on and on. And the disappearance of commuters, customers, students, moviegoers, etc. will cause massive revenue losses for businesses across the country.
If you thought initially that only the vacation and hospitality industry (cruise ships, airlines, vacation resorts, theme parks, and other tourist destinations) would feel the brunt of the impact of COVID-19 and that your more immediate community would be spared from financial disruption, well time will tell but I would hazard a guess, that unless there is a sudden solution or comprehensive eradication of the virus over the next few months as we approach the winter season — it doesn’t look good.
There, now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you…you may want to rent or check out some lighthearted movies on your favorite streaming services to take your mind off of all this doom and gloom. For example, there’s I Am Legend with Will Smith about this…uh…never mind. Hey, here’s a pretty picture I took of the sunset tonight.