By Jack Kelly
Let’s start with the good news: If you’re reading this, the odds are you’re not a casualty of the coronavirus and safely cocooning at home riding out the storm.
Now for a reality check—we’re not off to a great start for the workweek. There’s a cascade of troubling news that we have to contend with.
Stocks around the world dropped once again. On Monday morning, the Dow is already down nearly 10%; that’s a 2,250 point loss. Over the weekend, the Federal Reserve Bank (these are the central bankers that basically control the money flow) announced a $700 billion stimulus plan, which included cutting the interest rates to zero. This program left investors nervous (and kinda freaked out), as opposed to the Fed’s intention of offering some needed calmness.
The Fed thought zero interest rates would make borrowing cheaper for Americans and businesses. Investors and financial experts say the move was one of desperation and won’t really help out that much. Wall Street analysts contend that the emergency policies may create collateral damage and raise questions over the Fed’s ability to effectively deal with the crisis. Critics contend that the money should go directly to the people who need the help the most.
Panic was further stocked by the moves of city and state officials across the country. New York City, Westchester County and Long Island closed schools for an indefinite period of time. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that schools should close for at least eight weeks to be meaningful. Universities across the country have closed as well. The students will be asked to take their classes online for an undetermined number of weeks. There are unfounded rumors that college dorms could be used for makeshift hospital rooms if necessary.
U.S. city officials required bars and restaurants to close early. They are permitting takeout and deliveries.The delivery people are told to drop off the meals outside the buildings. Some parts of the U.S. have enacted citywide curfews.
The CDC recommends that places should not allow gatherings of 50 or more people. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged Americans to “hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.”
Under pressure, President Donald Trump took a test for coronavirus and claims that he tested not positive. The House passed a coronavirus relief package, including free testing for the virus and paid sick leave. A division of Google is working in conjunction with the U.S. government to develop a website with important information about coronavirus symptoms and testing.
Airports are a mess. There are long crowded lines as workers are attempting to implement “enhanced entry screenings,” including tests for passengers returning from Europe. The Washington Post reported, “The measures designed to prevent new infections in the United States created the exact conditions that facilitate the spread of the highly contagious virus.” Instead of helping, large mobs of people crushed against each other is the exact thing we’re trying to avoid.
Supermarkets now have long lines and empty shelves. Fights have broken out over toilet paper and other supplies. Stores, such as Kroger, Publix, Trader Joe’s and Walmart, are trying to deal with this crisis. Chains like Wegmans have enacted limits on certain products. There are requests online for markets to open their locations earlier for older people, so they won’t be exposed to people who they could catch the coronavirus from.
Corporate and family vacations have abruptly stopped. Any business related travel and tourism is in trouble. Airlines, hotels, cruise lines and restaurants are feeling the financial pain. Airlines are cutting flights.
This does not bode well for the American public. With business closures, a breakdown in the global supply chain (due to other countries going through the same issues) and the stock market cratering, it’s highly likely that hiring will be halted. Mass layoffs will be inevitable, particularly in hard-hit industries.
It’s important to hang in there and try to remain positive. We’ve experienced many crises in America, including a Civil War, World War I and II, the divisiveness of the Vietnam war, Sept. 11 and the Great Recession. As a nation, we united together and rose to the challenge. It may take time, but we will get through this and come out on the other side stronger.