WeIn some places, public officials and private business owners moved with stunning speed. In others, paralyzing hesitancy, defiant bravado or blithe disregard dominated. But by Monday, everywhere there were signs that most of the American economy was scraping to an unparalleled halt.
Across the country, bars and bookstores, gyms and nail salons, kindergarten classrooms and universities shut their doors. Major retailers from Apple to Lululemon to Patagonia have closed stores for two weeks, as have casino hotels in Las Vegas.
Some companies are shutting stores to help prevent the spread of the virus. Others are cutting back because their customers are staying away.
Many companies have vowed to continue to pay workers who are not coming in, and Congress is working on legislation to help businesses cover costs. But it’s only a matter of time before layoffs start registering on the wider economy.
Challenger Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm that tracks layoffs, said it had seen only a relative handful of coronavirus-related layoffs so far.
“We anticipate more to come,” said Andrew Challenger, the firm’s vice president. Many probably won’t be announced and will be hard to track, at least in real-time, he said. “But they will definitely start happening fairly quickly.”
Some businesses are improvising. Starbucks is eliminating seating at all of its company-owned stores in the United States for at least the next two weeks to encourage social distancing. McDonald’scompany-owned restaurants will close seating areas and shift to serving customers through drive-through, takeout and delivery. Stop & Shop stores will open earlier, 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. daily, to serve only customers who are age 60 and over.
And others are planning to keep their doors open, including a few retailers. Home Depot, which employs about 400,000 people at roughly 2,200 stores in the United States, was also open for business on Monday. Lowe’s, another big home improvement chain, said all of its more than 1,700 stores were open for business.
UPS, which employs some 413,000 people in the United States, was still processing packages and sending trucks for deliveries. Merck, the pharmaceutical company, was continuing to produce and distribute drugs from facilities spread out across nine states.