If there ever was a time to pick up dinner at a local pizza joint, shop for your spouse in a store down the street, find a place to take the kids in Newburyport, Gloucester or Salem on a Saturday afternoon — and otherwise put your money into our region’s economy — now is that time.
As a physical virus envelops our world, the economic effects aren’t far behind. Retailers, restaurants, Main Street businesses and the region’s tourist destinations are already being stung by scrapped vacations, cancelled business conventions, college campuses that have closed and offices that sent workers home to telecommute, out of an abundance of caution.
Many of us are freezing in place in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization has officially declared a pandemic. And while the economic shockwaves affect everyone differently, some of us are getting smacked with real force.
Last week’s stock market was a sample — the week-long plunge was enough to take your breath away, if you had the courage to check your retirement account.
But hotels, restaurants and even retailers in Boston are growing quiet in the aftermath of the cancellation of several big conventions. The annual Seafood Expo, a signal event for many companies on Cape Ann and the North Shore, was among them. No guests, no customers and no sales.
“We’re going to continue to see this decline over the next couple of months or longer, and it’s going to affect all people related to the hospitality industry — duck tours, Freedom Trail tours, everyone will be affected,” Paul Sacco, president of the Massachusetts Lodging Association, told the Boston Herald.
With big events in our region being cancelled — the St. Patrick’s Day parade and luncheon in Lawrence and North Shore Chamber of Commerce’s annual business expo are just a few examples — it’s only a matter of time before these kinds of economic symptoms arrive on our Main Streets, if they haven’t already.
A time of year that usually finds local businesses celebrating spring as people come out of their winter hibernation, instead finds the coronavirus forcing many of us to cloister inside for another week or two, or longer.
It’s too early to judge what the economic damage will be. Unlike the airline industry, which was already reporting coronavirus-related losses of nearly $160 billion at the start of this week, the impact on the corner store won’t be known for a while, at least until the state reports on sales tax receipts. But the anecdotal evidence is there for all to see, and it’s worrisome.
So, what better way to support your community than by spending close to home, whenever possible?
For that matter, remember the region’s charities and non-profits, many of which depend on fundraising events that have been postponed and cancelled amid our state of emergency. A small donation may not offset the painful loss to a charity of an annual fundraising dinner that isn’t happening. But if all of us chip in a few extra dollars, maybe the extra weeks of winter won’t be so bad.
While you’re feeling community spirited — provided that you’re also feeling healthy — it’s a good time for a blood donation too.
Unsurprisingly, the American Red Cross is concerned that coronavirus fears are keeping people away from blood drives. This as the blood supply suffers its typical seasonal shortage because of cold and flu season, which keeps many potential donors at bay.
We’ll hope for the best as we layer precautions upon precautions to keep ourselves, our families and our neighborhoods healthy, to hopefully avoid but at least mitigate the coronavirus. Let’s also look out for our communities economically -- with our wallets and our choices.