What social distancing might mean for the DC area’s modern economy

“The main thing is for folks to take due diligence, but I don’t think there’s a reason to panic,” a local economist said. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/m-imagephotography)

Coronavirus-related cancellations and closures are expected to deliver a blow to the D.C. area economy at least in the short-term, but a local economist doesn’t believe there’s reason to panic.

“The impacts that we’re going to see certainly are potentially going to displace hundreds if not thousands of workers in the near term,” said Terry Clower, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University.

Clower likens the current climate to the period after the 9/11 terror attacks.

“Most of us sat on our couches and watched the news for several days. We didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t shop, other than what we absolutely had to,” Clower said. “But, this is a modern economy: we don’t have to leave our couches to shop.”

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And some workers are able to telework.

“Business is still happening,” Clower said. “There’s a sense that perhaps the negative impacts that we would have seen in previous events like this are not going to be quite as severe — unless we talk ourselves into making them worse.”

Combining the cancellation of conventions, concerts, professional sports games and events involving the National Cherry Blossom Festival with fewer vacationing and business visitors, and the area’s leisure/hospitality industry certainly is taking a hit.

But, Clower noted, aggressive efforts are underway to break the coronavirus contagion cycle.

And, if it’s successful, “then, that’s much different than if this drags on for three or four months,” Clower said.

In addition to imposed social distancing, people’s personal choices and behavior can impact their susceptibility to getting or helping spread the virus.

“The main thing is for folks to take due diligence, but I don’t think there’s a reason to panic,” Clower said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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