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Coronavirus causing public health, economic crisis with no end in sight

Tom Hauser
Updated: May 14, 2020 06:39 PM
Created: May 14, 2020 06:20 PM

On the same day the U.S. Labor Department reported nearly 3 million more Americans have filed for unemployment, two national experts on public health and the economy took part in an online webinar and painted a dire short-term picture.

With nearly 36 million Americans now out of work, Neel Kashkari, of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said it's hard to see when the unemployment picture will bottom out.

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"I think the key is going to be, as we talk with [Dr. Michael Osterholm], how the virus progresses and do these temporary furloughs become permanent layoffs and how long does that process take," Kashkari said during the webinar sponsored by the Economic Club of Minnesota. "Unfortunately, there's so much we don't know right now. Most of the news we've gotten in the past few months is bad news and it's hard to call the bottom."

Dr. Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota said the news isn't likely to get much better any time soon.

"This is a situation that will last for many months," Osterholm said. "It's not going to be over with by the beginning of the summer or the end of summer. If you look at pandemics caused by respiratory pathogens, especially in the influenza world, we know they will march through the world for months and months until a sufficient number of people are infected and now become immune or until we have a vaccine."

Osterholm said a vaccine is at least "many months away." He and Kashkari agree the travel industry is among the hardest hit and might take the longest to recover.

Osterholm flatly said he will not fly right now.

"I would not right now, just from the standpoint of where we're at right now," Osterholm told the moderator, Margaret Brennan of CBS News. "I think I'm one of those people who's come to understand the power of Zoom. How many days have I been jet-lagged trying to fly to a one-day meeting in some distant location? So I think, from a travel industry, that's going to change. From a risk standpoint, I still think it's a risk I don't want to take."

Kashkari said another federal bailout of the airline industry will likely be necessary, as well as a hard look at how many air carriers the nation needs.

"We do need to have an airline industry," he told 1,000 people watching the webinar. "We are going to need to travel again. Is it going to look exactly like it did in 2019? Probably not. Same for hotels."


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