On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
65°
Partly Cloudy
H 88° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    65°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 88° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 88° L 74°
  • cloudy-day
    83°
    Evening
    Mostly Cloudy. H 88° L 74°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

National Govt & Politics
Many businesses cautious about restarting economy amid virus
Close

Many businesses cautious about restarting economy amid virus

Many businesses cautious about restarting economy amid virus
Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman
Paul Boutros, owner of East Side Pockets, a small restaurant near Brown University, looks out onto an empty street since students were sent home two weeks ago, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Providence, R.I. "He's not being realistic. How can you open if the cases are climbing day after day?" asked Boutros on Trump's call to restart the economy by mid-April. "You go to Walmart, you don't know if the people around you, if they have the virus. People come to our restaurant. I don't know if they have the virus." (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Many businesses cautious about restarting economy amid virus

President Donald Trump wants the country open for business by mid-April, but some experts warn it's not as easy as flipping a switch: Economies run on confidence, and that is likely to be in short supply for as long as coronavirus cases in the United States are still rising.

Trump this week said he wants businesses “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” which falls on April 12. That contradicts many public health experts, who warn that restrictions should only be lifted gradually and once more data about infection rates is available. They expect efforts to curb the disease will continue for several months at least.

Despite wild swings in financial markets and signs that unemployment is surging — both of which could hurt Trump in an election year — many businesses say it's not clear that reopening will be even an option in a few weeks: They have to follow the orders set in each state, and many of those are open ended or could be extended at any time. They are worried that opening too soon could be seen as irresponsible. And even if they did reopen, would customers come if the virus isn't under control?

“He’s not being realistic. How can you open if the cases are climbing day after day?” asked Paul Boutros, who owns East Side Pockets, a small restaurant that has lost most of its business since nearby Brown University sent students home two weeks ago.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, are cautious. They say reopening is a call health experts will have to make; in the meantime, they're focused on getting financial help for businesses.

Some business leaders and workers, of course, back the idea of a shorter shutdown. In a weekend post on Twitter, former Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein said those at lower risk should return to work in a few weeks.

“Extreme measures to flatten the virus ‘curve’ is sensible — for a time — to stretch out the strain on health infrastructure. But crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue — and beyond,” he said.

Taggart Barron, who is in finance and is working from his home in Bentonville, Arkansas, during the outbreak, said he would go into the office more if he were allowed — and that would mean he would be spending more, too, like on lunches out.

“I worry about the human and economic impact of a forced shutdown with no defined end in sight,” said Barron. “We are killing a fly with a missile.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — whose dire warnings and sometimes scolding tone in his daily briefings have often made him a foil for Trump during the outbreak — has suggested a staged opening eventually. He said that perhaps younger people who appear to be less affected or people who had recovered from the virus — if scientists are able to confirm that means they have immunity — could start to go back to work.

Cuomo said there was no need to “choose between a smart health strategy and smart economic strategy. We can do both and we must do both.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.

In Europe, government and industry leaders are debating the extent of the shutdown and which sectors are “essential." In Italy, which leads the world in deaths from the virus, the government is tightening its lockdown further, while French President Emmanuel Macron recently urged employees in key industries to continue showing up for work. Three months after the start of the outbreak in China, business has not yet returned to normal.

But as difficult as it was to shut down large parts of the American economy, restarting them may be even harder, especially if it happens while there is still uncertainty about the outbreak's trajectory. If a restart comes too early, it could also further fuel the pandemic, in which more than 20,000 people have already died globally.

Economic research on previous pandemics that weren't as severe has found that people voluntarily pulled back on shopping, travel and other activity to avoid exposure from crowds, according to Constance Hunter, chief economist at KPMG. So consumer spending would likely remain weak even if businesses largely reopened.

“It’s very tough to say to people, ‘Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s some politician who thinks GDP growth is what really counts,''” Bill Gates, a major philanthropist to global public health efforts, said in an interview that was part of a series organized by TED.

The travel industry, for one, expects that even if severe restrictions are lifted after three months, demand for air travel will be weakened by the loss of jobs and consumer confidence, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the International Air Transport Association, an industry trade group. The association expects global passenger demand to be down 65% in the April-June period. By the fourth quarter, that could narrow to a 10% decline, the group said.

There are also added burdens on workers these days that could make a partial reopening difficult. Many people in the workforce have family members at home that might need care or who are vulnerable to the virus or the workers may themselves be quarantined, noted Laurie White, president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce. In many places, schools are closed for the foreseeable future, so caring for their children may prevent some from returning to work.

The cost of the virus will have to be paid one way or another, said Gabriel Ehrlich, director of the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics at the University of Michigan. We can pay it now, by using shutdowns to slow down the virus' spread while we ramp up our ability to manage it, or later, in the form of increased public health costs if infections surge.

“I don’t want to downplay or minimize the fact that there are really substantial economic costs,” Ehrlich said. “But the reality is getting the disease under control is also beneficial for the economy.”

James Mark, who owns the restaurants North and Big King in Providence, said pushing to restart the economy before the health crisis is over would put businesses like his in a terrible position. As things are now, there’s some leverage for small businesses to negotiate with landlords or banks over rents, mortgages and debt payments. If things reopened while the coronavirus was still spreading, he’d be under pressure to put his staff and customers at risk to pay those bills.

“I don’t think there’s any economic solution until the health side of this gets solved,” Mark said. “We can’t rush this.”

___

Durbin reported from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Associated Press writer Chris Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • More than 1.4 million people worldwide -- including nearly 400,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Wednesday, April 8, continue below:      UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in stable condition amid coronavirus treatment, junior health minister says Update 4:13 a.m. EDT April 8: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains hospitalized in stable condition following a worsening of his novel coronavirus symptoms, junior health minister Edward Argar told Sky News. “I understand the Prime Minister is in a stable condition. He’s comfortable and in good spirits. He has, in the past, had some oxygen, but he’s not on ventilation,” Argar told the network. On Tuesday, Johnson’s spokesperson told CNN the prime minister is receiving “standard oxygen treatment” and is breathing without assistance, a day after he was transferred to intensive care. More than 1K Veterans’ Affairs health workers test positive for coronavirus Update 3:50 a.m. EDT April 8: At least 1,000 health care workers who service veterans through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. According to Task and Purpose, a military and veteran-focused digital media company, 1,007 Veterans’ Health Administration employees have contracted the virus and have been placed in isolation. Read more here. California governor brokers deals for 200M masks per month to fight coronavirus Update 3:15 a.m. EDT April 8: Gov. Gavin Newsom laid out plans Tuesday for his state to acquire more than 200 million protective masks per month for health care workers battling the novel coronavirus. Newsom, who discussed the plans while appearing on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” said action needed to be taken at the state level. 'In the past 48 hours, we have secured through a consortium of nonprofits and manufacturers here in the state of California upwards of 200 million masks on a monthly basis that we’re confident we can supply the needs of the state of California and potentially the needs of other western states,” Newsom said, adding, “We inked a number of contracts in the last few days that give me confidence in being able to say that.” Specifically, he told Maddow he expects to receive more than 150 million N95 masks and more than 50 million surgical masks per month. 2nd US coronavirus vaccine trial administers first dose Update 1:40 a.m. EDT April 8: The first dose of a second experimental novel coronavirus vaccine was administered this week to a subject at the University of Pennsylvania. Biotechnology firm Inovio began its Phase 1 clinical trial with the first dose delivered Monday and the trial expected to enroll as many as 40 healthy adult volunteers in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, according to a news release.  Dr. Pablo Tebas, an infectious disease specialist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s principal investigator, said in the release his team anticipates “rapid enrollment” in the early-stage trial, expected to continue through late summer.  “There has been tremendous interest in this vaccine among people who want to do what they can do to help protect the greater public from this pandemic as soon as possible,” Tebas said in the release.  Meanwhile, biotechnology firm Moderna launched its Phase 1 coronavirus vaccine testing in March. US coronavirus deaths hit 12,895, total cases near 400K Published 12:28 a.m. EDT April 8: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 398,000 early Wednesday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 398,809 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 12,895 deaths. U.S. cases now nearly triple the 141,942 reported in Spain and the 135,586 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 5,489 – or roughly 43 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 1,232 in New Jersey and 845 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 139,876 confirmed cases – more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 44,416 and Michigan with 18,970. Six other states have now confirmed at least 13,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 17,585, including 450 deaths • Louisiana: 16,284, including 582 deaths • Massachusetts: 15,202, including 356 deaths • Florida: 13,629, including 250 deaths • Pennsylvania: 14,956, including 296 deaths • Illinois: 13,553, including 380 deaths Meanwhile, Texas and Georgia each has confirmed at least 9,000 novel coronavirus infections, followed closely by Washington state with 8,696 cases and Connecticut with 7,781 cases; Indiana and Colorado each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases; Ohio, Maryland and Tennessee each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Virginia, North Carolina and Missouri each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Arizona, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama and Nevada each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.
  • At least 10 people have died from the coronavirus at one nursing home in Athens, Georgia, officials confirmed Tuesday. The patients were residents at PruittHealth Grandview. WSB-TV′s Justin Gray talked to a nurse who said she was fired for not going back while still symptomatic for COVID-19. She said she got the virus from a patient who died from the illness. She was one of multiple nurses who talked to Gray, but most wanted to remain anonymous to protect their jobs. Nurse Myesha Moore first tipped off Gray to the coronavirus outbreak at Grandview after she was fired. She said the patients at the nursing home were like family to her. “I’m devastated,” Moore said. “I’m a nurse, and I’m a new nurse at that. I thought I was there to take care of people and protect them and be an advocate for them, and yet I’ve been terminated for being an advocate.” Gray reached out the PruittHealth at their Norcross headquarters. The company said in a statement: “We are saddened to share that 10 patients of PruittHealth Grandview who were previously tested presumptive positive for COVID-19 have passed away in the past few weeks. PruittHealth Grandview continues to operate at an alert code red status and has been strictly following enhanced infectious disease protocol.” Moore said she feels terrible for the victims and their families. “I love them, I really do,” Moore said. “And it hurts. It really does hurt.” PruittHealth denies terminating Moore, and said she is still on the payroll and even scheduled to earn hazard pay. They also said they are restricting staff at Grandview to only essential personnel right now.
  • A Florida man is facing allegations that he intentionally coughed on a store employee and said social distancing is “getting out of hand,” according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office. Christopher Canfora, 49, of DeBary, was arrested just before 3 p.m. at his home and taken to Volusia County Jail. He is being charged with assault with intent to commit a felony and is being held on $5,000 bond. Deputies responded to the Harbor Freight Tools store on Enterprise Road in Orange County. The employee said Canfora allegedly approached her at the cash register just after 9 a.m. and commented on the social distancing measure the store was taking. Tape markers were on the store to ensure customers stayed six feet apart. The employee told deputies that Canfora said “this is all getting out of hand” and intentionally coughed on her and the register. He then told her he does the same thing to people wearing masks when he sees them, and planned on going to Winn-Dixie and doing the same thing there, deputies said. Deputies said they were able to identify Canfora through a customer rewards system in the store’s database, according to the arrest affidavit. When they arrived at Canfora’s home, he denied coughing on anyone and told them he did not have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, deputies said. Canfora also told deputies that he didn’t expect anyone to understand his sense of humor, and that he couldn’t remember exactly what he said at Harbor Freight, authorities said.
  • Plenty of people across the state have been dealing with issues trying sign up for Florida’s reemployment process, but now CareerSource Northeast Florida has a solution that can help. Eight career center locations in Jacksonville and the surrounding counties are now providing paper applications with pre-addressed envelopes so you won’t have to deal with the website crashing or waiting on hold. The applications will be sent directly to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “The applications are available for anybody who doesn’t have the ability to print out the paper application from the online site at the state of Florida,” says Candace Moody with CareerSource. She says it’s unclear how many people are going to need the paper applications, so they’ve printed out 10,000 to get started. “It’s important to note that the applications are available outside from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day,” Moody says. After that, they’ll bring the applications inside until the next day, she says. You can go to the following locations to pick up the paper applications: Duval County Downtown: 215 N. Market Street Jacksonville, FL 32202 Gateway: 5000 Norwood Avenue, Suite 2 Jacksonville, FL 32208 Southside: 11160 Beach Blvd., Ste. 111 Jacksonville, FL 32246 Baker County 1184 South 6th Street Macclenny, FL 32063 Clay County 1845 Town Center Blvd., Suite 150 Fleming Island, FL 32003 Nassau County 96042 Lofton Square Court Yulee, FL 32097 Putnam County 400 Highway 19 North, Ste. 53 Palatka, FL 32177 St. Johns County 525 State Road 16, Suite 109 St. Augustine, FL 32084
  • The doors of Jacksonville’s Museum of Science and History were locked Tuesday. MOSH is shut down during the pandemic.  Local mom Lauren Lynch told Action News Jax it’s one of many changes she’s noticed because of coronavirus.  She added that keeping kids entertained is hard while stuck at home.  Lynch said, “That’s tough because she asks about the park everyday. My son, I want him to get out and start walking, and be outside.  In response to COVID-19, MOSH made their content available in all local homes.  MOSH Connect, the museum’s new program, has educational experiments, video demonstrations and downloadable activity sheets.  All of the content is online and free.  One of the posted activities is a catapult built with Popsicle sticks, rubber bands and a plastic fork.  The lesson is designed to demonstrate Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion.  Lynch said she’ll be exploring MOSH Connect with her kids.  She explained it’s an option to keep her kids occupied and safe inside.

The Latest News Videos