Another COVID-19 Shutdown? All Signs Point to One, Fast-Approaching
The coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh heavy on the economy. Shutdowns dating back to March have had rippling effects, disrupting businesses and supply chains — none more heavily than manufacturing. A strong June 2020 Manufacturing ISM® Report On Business® has many looking at the coming months with optimism … but that optimism could soon diminish under the prospect of another shutdown. Are we headed for another round of closed doors and essential workers?
It’s not if, but when
Some of the country’s top medical authorities think we’re already out of time, and that another shutdown isn’t debatable. “We’re going to have to face the harsh reality in some states that we may need to shut down again,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor at George Washington University School of Medicine, in an interview with CNN.
The threat of a second shutdown is gaining steam behind the reluctance of many states to enact and enforce social distancing policies to prevent the spread of the virus — and the inability of citizens to follow rules already in place. As states like New York and California have slowly seen the number of active coronavirus cases fall over the last month, states like Florida, Arizona, and Texas have seen massive upshots in confirmed cases. For these states, second shutdowns are already being discussed.
The concept of another COVID-19-related shutdown isn’t what anyone wants, but it’s not unprecedented. Several Asian epicenters have reopened only to shut down again as the virus began reappearing — Hong Kong and Singapore among them.
Bite the bullet or face the consequences?
“We can’t shut down the economy again,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in an interview with CNBC. “I think we’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage. And not just economic damage, but … medical problems and everything else that get put on hold.”
Most business owners share the Treasury Secretary’s sentiment, especially in the manufacturing sector. They’ve already experienced the massive disruptions caused by state-mandated shutdowns and aren’t eager to face them again. Moreover, the argument that ramifications will be worse this time around is largely backed by economists. Already high unemployment levels would skyrocket further. Supply chains would unravel, perhaps for good. The manufacturing economy would suffer mightily, potentially driving not only a recession, but a full-on depression.
The consequences of another shutdown are purely speculative right now, but the second shutdown itself has more than enough momentum to materialize. For many states, it already has.
A second, gradual shutdown
Since Memorial Day weekend, the number of active coronavirus cases has swung dramatically upward. For many states, this has meant evasive action. Texas cancelled its gradual reopening on June 25 and reimplemented several social distancing measures. Florida mirrored this guidance and re-closed bars and other social venues. North Carolina further paused its reopening and mandated face masks in public spaces.
For these and many other states, a second shutdown isn’t coming; it’s here. While not yet as encompassing as the first shutdown, it might not be long until residents are again encouraged to shelter in place. If and when that happens, manufacturers in these states need to have a plan.