NNBW Editor Column: COVID-19 pandemic – this too shall pass
EDITOR’S NOTE: This column will be published in the Wednesday, March 18, print edition of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. It went to press March 13 — due to the fact the NNBW’s print edition goes to press a full five days prior to publication date. It was published prior to President Trump issuing a national state of emergency, in addition to a slew of important updates from the state of Nevada and other government agencies throughout the weekend and into Monday. The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global event, and the situation is fluid — please note that some of the information contained in this column may have changed since publication, or is otherwise no longer relevant.
RENO, Nev. — Without question, the single-biggest issue to gain international attention since the start of 2020 is the spread of COVID-19, aka “coronavirus disease 2019,” and it remains to be seen just how deep the impacts will be to the economy here in Nevada and across the country.
Unfortunately, as is the case when it comes to the social-media-dependent world we live in these days, a lot of misinformation is spread about what the disease truly is, how life-threatening it may be, where it came from, what sorts of precautions people should take, and so on.
Here’s what’s absolutely true: Medical experts agree that the disease is non-life-threatening for most people — and in some cases, the infected might not even feel any symptoms. So, when simply stating it like that, there’s plenty of reason not to panic.
Still, by Jan. 31, both the World Health Organization and U.S. Health and Human Services had declared the outbreak a public health emergency. As February droned on into March, slowly but surely, more cases began to surface. Soon, large-scale festivals like South by Southwest were canceled, events were postponed — and stocks began to tick down.
Then, after weeks of hemming and hawing by leaders in Washington about how truly serious the situation was, the World Health Organization on March 11 formally declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic.
From there, all hell broke loose. And regardless of whether or not you agree that what followed was an overreaction, that statement isn’t hyperbole.
President Trump issued an address that evening announcing, among other things, an unprecedented 30-day travel ban from Europe, adding that he would seek $50 billion in funding to increase low-cost loans to small businesses affected by the virus.
In a startling span of 48 hours, America’s sports world came to a halt. The NBA and NHL seasons were suspended. Baseball’s Opening Day was postponed. The NCAA basketball tournaments were canceled. Sports is on hiatus. We’re talking billions of dollars in TV advertising, ticket sales and other forms of revenue (sports bars depending on strong crowds for March Madness, just one of countless examples) down the drain.
Oh, and lest I forget, while the stock market as of this writing (we put the print edition to bed on Fridays, so in this case, March 13 — Friday the 13th, oh what an omen) is amid a rebound, it’s still quite volatile, considering Wall Street officially ended its longest bull market run in history on March 12.
Make no mistake, regardless of what you may hear “on the internet,” or what some people might say to lessen the blow, the COVID-19 pandemic is absolutely a serious issue, and as cases spread throughout the world, country and right here in Northern Nevada, it will absolutely get worse before it gets better.
The business world across greater Reno-Sparks will be greatly impacted, but to what extent? My note above about sports bars suffering due to “March Sadness,” that’s just the tip of the iceberg — the food and beverage industry as a whole could be in for a very rough few weeks as more and more wary people avoid leaving their homes.
The hotel, travel and tourism industry will certainly be hugely impacted as vacations are canceled, conferences are postponed and so on. Companies across the region will have tough decisions to make as a byproduct of however long quarantines last; CEOs may cut back benefits, pay more sick time or eliminate positions to maintain a profit.
All this brings me to the first of two points with this column: As noted above, we go to press a full five days before each print edition hits the streets.
Considering that, it would be irresponsible for us to devote news coverage in print each week to business impacts and “ongoing updates” relative to the coronavirus.
This issue is evolving each minute, so the last thing I want to do is publish something only for it to be “old news” — this column notwithstanding, same with this week’s “Covering Your Assets” column from Mike Bosma, who shares great business advice on page 18.
So, in short, you won’t be seeing much “business impacts of the coronavirus” in the NNBW’s print edition. Even some of the stories in this week’s edition could be impacted after we go to press — we’ll just have to roll with the punches.
We will publish some updates on our website, but as I’ve written before, we’re a very lean staff, so I encourage you to follow the incredible live blogs and up-to-the-minute updates being provided by the hard-working journalists in our region at the Nevada Appeal, Reno Gazette Journal and The Nevada Independent.
My second point goes back to what I said earlier — while it’s true younger people or those with strong immune systems may not suffer, older adults and people with serious chronic conditions are at risk of getting “very sick from COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There’s no misinformation to decipher, here. The CDC is the leading public health institute on the planet, employing some of the world’s very best doctors and brightest medical minds who work tireless hours to research infectious diseases for the betterment of our wellbeing.
I encourage everyone to stay up to date by visiting the following CDC-backed web page — coronavirus.gov — which will be constantly updated (often multiple times a day) with need-to-know information.
I’m of the mindset that, while short-term economic impacts will be damaging, “this too shall pass,” as the saying goes. Still, I’m no health professional, so in serious situations like these, I feel it’s important to rely on the experts. My advice? Don’t panic, but be prepared and practice appropriate precautions.
Kevin MacMillan is editor of the NNBW. Reach him for comment at email@example.com.
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