Week in Review, March 20: Scenes from a Pandemic

Virus Outbreak Louisiana
A streetcar conductor wears a mask as she runs her route on St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Much of the city is shut down and many are taking precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS – There were about 100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Louisiana on Monday. By Friday morning, there were almost 500 cases and 10 deaths. About 300 of the confirmed cases are located in New Orleans. The numbers will rise as testing expands.

The stock market continued to lose value at an historic rate. From the AP at midday Friday: “Major indexes are on track for heavy losses for the second week in a row after some punishing drops. The S&P 500 is down 12% for the week and is off roughly 28% since reaching a record high a month ago. It’s close to its lowest point since late 2018.”

Almost all business as usual in New Orleans has been altered as people work from home in an attempt to slow the community spread of COVID-19 and prevent a surge of patients that would overwhelm the state’s healthcare infrastructure. Everybody’s learning how to use Zoom, the video conferencing platform.

On Monday, Gov. Edwards and Mayor Cantrell ordered all bars, movie theaters and gyms closed. Restaurants are allowed to provide takeout, pickup and drive-through services only. President Trump urged people to avoid gathering in groups larger than 10 but throughout the week many people have ignored the advice. “Quarantine shaming” has become a thing as people criticize spring breakers, St. Patrick’s Day revelers and churchgoers who are still gathering en masse. There is speculation that at some point soon Louisiana will follow the lead of California and issue a “stay at home” order that asks residents to leave their homes only when necessary.

Meanwhile, the economic repercussions have been instant and painful for everybody from the massive and powerful airline industry to the server at your neighborhood cafe. In New Orleans, there are several efforts underway to provide aid to “gig economy” workers who are suddenly out of work and in financial peril. Small businesses can begin applying for emergency SBA loans. And politicians in Washington are currently debating aid packages to help big businesses and everyday Americans. There’s a real possibility that many people will get a check in the mail from the federal government as an emergency measure to prop up the economy.

One local university is offering free counseling over the phone for people suffering from virus-induced anxiety.

Many entrepreneurs are jumping in to help prop up the city’s restaurants while keeping people eating well.

Meanwhile, just about everything that hadn’t been cancelled or postponed last week was cancelled or postponed this week. The new deadline for federal taxes in June 15. The Louisiana legislative session and, sadly, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival have both been postponed. And one especially alarming turn of events: oil traded below $21 for the first time in two decades.

Biz checked in with one local business, The Creole Creamery on Prytania Street, to see how they’ve adapted to the new COVID-19 lifestyle … and also because all this pandemic anxiety made us want two scoops of peanut butter fudge pie. …

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