Are we in danger of being broke and sick instead of just sick?
It’s getting harder and harder to work. For some employees and businesses in Alabama, it’s not possible at all anymore.
Schools, movie theaters, dental offices and all onsite dining and drinking establishments are closed by edict of state government. Jefferson County has now ordered all non-essential retail businesses closed. Production has shut down at the state’s signature auto plants.
These are all places where people earn paychecks.
Fear is also doing its part in keeping cash registers quiet. Health professionals have doled out the advice they are suited to give: don’t go near anyone else.
Even in an increasingly digital economy isolation has a devastating effect on communities and families across the state. Not everyone can work virtually. Brick and mortar locations will always matter.
Businesses not ordered to close are facing shut down for a lack of traffic. Perhaps most harmful is the complete lack of consumer confidence driven by the uncertainty.
The ripple effect taking place across our economy is difficult to overstate.
The National Federation of Independent Business, which touts itself as “the voice of small business,” released the results of a survey of its members this week. According to the survey, 76% of small business owners have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. This is up substantially from a survey 10 days earlier in which 25% said they had been negatively impacted. It’s reasonable to think that number will eclipse 90% in the coming days.
Some leaders are beginning to fully realize the problem we’re facing. To “fully” realize the problem requires an understanding that health considerations simply cannot be separated from economic considerations.
On Friday, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) remarked that he had questions about some of the decisions which have been made.
Orr astutely pointed out that the impact on employers in many cases will be permanent.
“It takes much longer to start a business back up if it hadn’t gone into total bankruptcy and failure than it does to just shut her down,” he noted.
At a briefing on Monday, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson reiterated that his city’s “first and foremost concern is the health of our citizens.” However, he also was firm in his belief that the long-term effect on the economy has to be taken into account when making decisions.
Stimpson reasoned, “[W]e can’t let the health crisis become an economic crisis more than what it already is.”
Watchdogs are obsessing over the number of doctors present at government briefings. It’s time for economists and members of the business community to share the stage, too. Their voices need to be heard equally in rooms where decisions are being made.
Health professionals have made invaluable contributions to the effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. In a mere two weeks, they have fueled possibly the most effective public information campaign in history. People are consumed with maintaining proper hygiene. People are spraying, wiping and washing at every opportunity.
We’ve all been trained. People are much better equipped to take precautions now than they were two weeks ago.
It’s impossible to know the number of people who have been exposed to the virus, have the virus or will get the virus. There is a prominent line of thought in the medical community that we are all going to get sick, at some point. A lot of decisions are being made assuming data that does not actually exist.
We’re approaching two weeks into what amounts to government-imposed and self-imposed time off. It sounds like a third week is all but certain. That’s not all that much different than the French in a normal year.
Fortunately, we’re not France.
The time is getting close to when people need to return to the world and rebuild before it becomes too late. They will take their training with them. Businesses will surely employ precautions which make their customers most comfortable. If it takes extra space and wipes to close a sale, then that’s what they will provide.
The freedom to show what we’re made of is what our leaders should soon provide.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia