Acute & Chronic Economic Considerations of COVID-19

period 2014-2016. Despite witnessing these biological events that cost other countries in terms of health and economic security, the US snubbed the red flags warning that the next epidemic would likely hit our population and economy. These epidemics were used as evidence to support numerous expert recommendations that the US must strengthen its pandemic preparedness and response activities, procedures, and tools in expectation that a reemerging or novel infectious disease would breach our borders. Admittedly, comprehensive prevention of an outbreak and its damage to a public health and the economy is unlikely, but pre-existing plans and policies to position critical infrastructure, medical R&D sectors, and economic measures to detect and respond to a looming disease threat would mitigate the damage.

Economic Triage
As we wade through the storm of COVID-19, economic triage should consider a bevy of factors that acutely impact individual and household-level economic health during the pandemic and the recovery period following its resolution. The economic health of individuals and households bear direct impacts on the economy of the nation. As gross income shrinks, so do disposable income and consumer demand. For sectors that are able to operate during the pandemic and continue to offer goods and services, the lack of spending translates into lost profits. The lack of preparation and planning for a biological event that froze many, if not most, sectors of our economy, delayed implementation of economic measures to help sustain individual and household economic security, thereby enabling spending.

Factors Impacting the Peri-Pandemic Economy
Job and wage losses, lack of savings, and reliance on credit are among the factors that continue to erode economic security across all levels.  As workers (or their loved ones) become sick or fear sickness, receive layoff notifications, or experience reductions in wage hours, household and individual level income falls rapidly. According to the Washington Post, nearly 7 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, a record-setting figure. These job losses are likely concentrated in sectors that require consistent engagement with the public, but are not a component of critical infrastructure. Such income-at-risk workers include those in the retail and food service, entertainment (theatres, concert and sport venues, gambling casinos), airlines, hotels, tourism, and automobile industries. As necessary non-medical countermeasures like social distancing and shelter-in-place were encouraged and mandated, workers within these industries incurred income losses from shrunken or eliminated hourly wages and tips. Sudden losses of employment and hours leave many individuals