America’s Economy Begins to Shut Down as Pandemic Measures Take Hold

Schools are closed in West Virginia but bars in Charleston, the capital, are still open. In Sun Prairie, Wis., Sunday services were held as usual at one church, even though three members of another church two miles away tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

“In case you’re wondering, we’re still on this morning,” Focus Church posted on its Facebook page.

In Chicago, some movie theaters are open, though they have instituted “social distancing plans” that block off seats in every other row. Regal Cinemas, by contrast, announced it was closing all its outlets after the White House guidance.

Although many restaurants, airlines and entertainment venues were shut down and many office workers stayed home on Monday, millions of Americans were still at work. Lowe’s, the home improvement chain, said all of its more than 1,700 stores were open for business. The company employs more than 270,000 people around the country. Home Depot, which employs about 400,000 people in its roughly 2,200 stores in the United States, was also open for business on Monday.

Boeing, the embattled aerospace giant, was continuing to assemble airplanes at its major factories in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, S.C. UPS, which employees some 413,000 people in the United States, was still sending trucks out to deliver packages and processing orders. Merck, the pharmaceutical company, was continuing to produce and distribute drugs from facilities spread out across nine states.

The federal Centers for Disease Control recommended limiting gatherings to 50 or fewer attendees, but as Dr. Rex Archer, the director of the Kansas City Health Department, noted: “I’d rather have a meeting of 60 in a room that holds 500 than a meeting of 49 in a room that holds 50.”

Public health officials are united in arguing that eliminating as much as person-to-person interaction as possible is necessary to control how quickly the coronavirus spreads so that the health care system can manage the caseload — what’s being called “flattening the curve.”

Then the central question becomes what should be done to counter the resulting widespread and potentially devastating economic hardships.

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