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How Coronavirus Shut Downs and Fears are Effecting Businesses in Seattle

Published on March 10, 2020

A view of downtown Seattle featuring the skyline and the Spaceneedle over a I-5.
Downtown Seattle, where many workers have been asked to work from home. Image Credit: Pixabay

Here at ground zero of the first and largest outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States, hardy residents in fleece and flannel are going about their daily lives as normally as possible.Children attend schools that have been deep-cleaned. Shoppers stock up on canned foods and paper towels, emptying pallets of toilet paper at their local Costco.

Fishmonger Nic Grimmer, 23, threw salmon across the counter for the tourists and bumped elbows with passing market workers and friends. Standing in rubber orange overalls, Grimmer maintained a steady patter for the passing crowds, offering to fillet any fish they wanted or pack seafood for airline travel. “Can’t be too careful,” he said during a break. “Some lady just watched me wipe my forehead and she was like, ‘You’d better wash your hands.’”

The death toll here is sobering. Eleven of 12 deaths are in Washington state. Fifty-one of the confirmed cases are in King County, home to Seattle. Nearby Snohomish County had 18 cases and Grant County, in the central part of the state, reported its first case Thursday.With public fear spreading, early signs of economic distress and disruption are beginning to surface. Stocks plunged more than 3% Thursday as investors anticipated the economic fallout from the coronavirus could be much worse than expected.

Here in Seattle, anxious restaurants and retail outlets operating on tight margins especially in the winter months coped with the uncertainty while bracing themselves for what could be lean days ahead. However this tech boom town is by no means a ghost town, at least not yet, said Jeffrey Shulman, a professor at the University of Washington, who teaches marketing in the Foster School of Business and studies Amazon’s effects on the region. He is concerned about businesses in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, which is home to the multiple highrises where many of Amazon’s 50,000 employees work. Right now, he said, stores and restaurants are only a little less crowded. But that will likely change as many of those workers begin to telecommute. Even at Shulman’s own university, winter classes will no longer meet in person, the campus announced Friday.

Local health officials have urged people to work from home and avoid large gatherings. Crowds downtown have thinned and commutes can now be measured in minutes, instead of hours. Social distancing is in full effect.

Continue reading at USA Today

Originally written by Trevor Hughes, Jessica Guynn, and Elizabeth Weise for USA Today.
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