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The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes From the Trenches - May 6, 2020

Alex Carrick
The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes From the Trenches - May 6, 2020

There are currently two crises underway simultaneously. The advance of the novel coronavirus is taking a terrible toll in terms of physical and emotional well-being. At the same time, job losses resulting from ‘social distancing’ are sending the economy into a tailspin. To fight on both fronts, governments are advancing rescue packages of never-seen-before dimensions. Every day, the tremendous number of factors in play reconfigure in a new way. These ‘from the trenches’ notes attempt to shed some light along a murky pathway.

  • Pivot time, everyone! No longer is all the news surrounding the health care crisis entirely about bringing the economy to a near standstill so that ‘social distancing’ can establish fire walls against the spread of the coronavirus. More than half of U.S. states are presently allowing some form of business re-openings.
  • New guidelines, ‒ to be implemented in phases, ‒ for conducting operations in restaurants, retail stores, cinemas and so on vary widely by location, but they all include some version of personal protective gear and reduced space occupancy.
    • Shopping mall giant Simon Properties is promising to hand out free masks to patrons upon entry into one of its properties. 
    • Also, with respect to face coverings, JetBlue has become the first major airline to require their use by all flight attendants and passengers on the company’s jets.
    • Where cinema screenings will be allowed once again, attendance under Phase One rule relaxations will be limited to 20% of capacity.
    • The at-most ‘repopulation’ aim for many retail outlets is five customers per 1,000 square feet.
    • Desks in schools will be set at least six feet apart. Students will eat their lunches in classrooms. Congregating in cafeterias and gyms will be forbidden.
  • Going forward, construction trade associations should be focusing on measures to recommend for next-round building code revisions. For example, hospitals, nursing homes, seniors’ homes, homeless shelters and prisons would all benefit greatly from physical layout improvements to accommodate isolation of ill individuals when necessary. Standards recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) must be followed. Design changes throughout the built environment may become one of the most significant offshoots of these heart-wrenching days.
  • There is a warning, though, that I’d like to pass on to you, the reader. Be aware that an economic recovery won’t necessarily mean only blue skies and smooth sailing ahead. I’m sure you’ve heard about the economist who’s had three unhappy marriages and two painful divorces since before the bust in 2001. He wooed and won his last couple of brides shortly after troughs in the business cycle. You see, that was his mistake. Wives 2 and 3 were rebound relationships.

Read the previous article here: The Economy Under COVID-19: Notes from the Trenches – May 5, 2020.

Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for ConstructConnect. He has delivered presentations throughout North America on the U.S., Canadian and world construction outlooks. Mr. Carrick has been with the company since 1985. Links to his numerous articles are featured on Twitter @ConstructConnx, which has 50,000 followers.

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