States Weigh Risks vs. Rewards With Business Openings
First and foremost, the coronavirus has sickened or killed millions of people. That’s obviously the most concerning aspect of this pandemic.
But the virus has also negatively affected countless businesses and individuals. Among them are those in the hospitality and food industries.
Restaurants, hotels, salons, gyms and other businesses were forced to shut their doors. Or offer significantly reduced hours and capacities. It’s estimated that nearly 2.5 million jobs at eating and drinking establishments have been lost.
It can be argued all day whether those closings and restrictions have helped stem the tide of the virus. What can’t be argued is how the restrictions have hurt those who make a living in the service industries.
Here’s how the pandemic has affected employment in six U.S. industries over the past year.
- Hospitality (restaurants, bars, hotels, etc.) – Unemployment rose from 5 to 16.7 percent.
- Travel (airlines, railroads, trucking, etc.) – Unemployment rose from 2.6 to 8.4 percent.
- Construction (especially office buildings) – Unemployment rose from 5 to 9.6 percent.
- Personal service (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) – Unemployment rose from 3.2 to 7.4 percent.
- Manufacturing (food, apparel, etc.) – Unemployment rose from 3.1 to 5.5 percent.
- Motion pictures (movies, theaters, etc.) – Unemployment rose from 1.9 to 6.4 percent.
Most Doors Opening, Some Closing
Overall in America, new cases and hospitalizations are down since November. As a result, restrictions are being rolled back in some states. But in other states, new cases are rising. And that’s prompting more stringent restrictions.
For example, indoor dining reopened at 25 percent capacity on February 14 in New York City. Low-risk activities such as visiting zoos and botanical gardens can reopen with restrictions.
But those who leave New York state for 24 hours or less must be tested within four days of returning. Other than travel to contiguous states.
New York City hotels are required to have guests fill out a traveler health form before checking in.
A Variety of Rules, Regulations & Restrictions
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has rolled back all coronavirus restrictions on businesses. Including mask requirements and gathering limits.
Bars and restaurants in Michigan are open again now. Although capacity is limited to 25 percent. And curfews are set at 10 p.m.
In Vermont, new case numbers have risen. Bars were closed and restaurants limited to 50 percent capacity. Social gatherings between multiple households were prohibited.
Travelers to Hawaii must show a negative test result from the past 72 hours. Or self-quarantine for 10 days. There is a mask mandate in public places.
Washington Reopening Slowly
Washington Governor Jay Inslee is laying the groundwork for re-openings. Such as restaurants.
Once a region meets certain metrics in the state, it can open up. Such as decreasing rates in new cases and hospitalizations.
But not everyone is pleased with the governor’s announcement. Anthony Anton is CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association. He said this is not a roadmap to recovery.
“It’s a roadmap to a near-complete collapse of main street neighborhood restaurants and hospitality businesses,” he said.
California Lifts Stay-at-Home Order
Stay-at-home orders were lifted recently in California. Many restaurants are allowed to have outdoor dining again. Here’s what California Governor Gavin Newsom said.
“We can lay claim to starting to see some real light at the end of the tunnel as it relates to case numbers. We are in a position projecting four weeks forward with a significant decline in the case rates, positivity rates.
“We are anticipating… still more decline in hospitalizations. And more declines in ICU. And that’s why we’re lifting that stay-at-home (order).”
While this was good news for businesses and many residents, it was also puzzling. Since Newsom established the stay-at-home order in January, confirmed cases have more than doubled. And positivity rates are higher.
ICU capacity is lower everywhere in the state except for the northern section. The state is continuing to see a record-breaking number of deaths from the virus. And the new and more contagious variants are causing concern.
Will ‘Normal’ Be Normal Again?
When will we return to normal? That’s a question no one knows the answer to. What’s likely is an eventual “new normal.”
That could mean some people continuing to wear facemasks. And fewer people dining out.
It might mean fewer people attending concerts and sports events. And many continuing to choose delivery over in-store visits.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says 70-85 percent of the U.S. population would need to be vaccinated before normalcy could occur.
Variants Threatening Progress
Obviously, we hope the downward trend in new cases continues. There is some reason for optimism.
But new variants are very concerning. Some are even more contagious than the coronavirus we’ve been fighting for over a year.
If these new variants cause surges, more shutdowns and restrictions will be imposed. And that will result in serious damage to already struggling industries and employees.
It looks like this is going to be a long battle. Please do whatever you deem necessary to stay safe and healthy.