Week in Review, April 3: COVID-19 Spikes, 700,000 Jobs Disappear and Federal Aid Begins
NEW ORLEANS – Last Friday, there were 2,700 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 119 deaths in Louisiana. One week later, there are more than 10,000 cases and nearly 400 deaths. Worldwide, there are more than 1 million confirmed cases.
Governments at all levels in the U.S. have extended stay-at-home orders through at least the month of April – including in Florida and other states that have been skeptical about the pandemic’s danger and slow to restrict movement.
The effects of the COVID-19 continue to be unprecedented. The federal government reported more than 700,000 jobs lost in the month of March – the worst decline since 2009 – and those numbers are expected to skyrocket. The three major stock indexes were down more than 2 percent Friday after another volatile week.
Applications to the federal Payroll Protection Program – designed to get cash into the hands of small businesses – began Friday. The federal government plans to guarantee more than $300 billion in loans so that banks can loan businesses the money they need to keep their employees on the payroll. Many of the loans will be forgiven.
One major result of all the changes is that many white collar workers are conducting business from their kitchen tables or home offices while healthcare workers, grocery store employees, couriers, garbage collectors and many others are still working as usual. It’s the new normal.
Many New Orleanians have responded to the crisis with creativity and drive. Two local restaurateurs launched a telehealth business and hired many of their hospitality workers to work the phones. Volunteers are making safety gear for healthcare workers. And a local priest has created an outdoor, walk-up confessional to serve his congregation.
The NFL draft, set for April 23-25, is one of the few sports or entertainment events this spring not to be cancelled or postponed. The Saints will use the new Dixie Brewery, owned by Gayle Benson, as their draft headquarters.
Meanwhile, a special shout out to the businesses who had just gotten started as the COVID-19 crisis erupted. Biz checked in with the owners of Happy Raptor Distilling, which opened less than a month before the city’s shutdown.
We asked New Orleans business leaders to share their insights about COVID-19. Here are some of the highlights from those conversations: