Saturday, March 25, 2023

Closed States of America

The United States is shutting down and Americans are struggling to cope with life in the time of the coronavirus. The world’s richest and most powerful country has never looked more helpless. By Kenneth Tiven

Want create site? Find Free WordPress Themes and plugins.

All across the US, in cities, big and small, at the beaches and lakefronts, in mountain resorts, everywhere, there are empty hotels and airports because of the government-ordered shutdowns, social distancing and a fear level approaching paranoia. The economic impact is wide and deeply felt and any return will be to a “new normal” and not the way things were before the outbreak of the pandemic. While most public schools remain closed, millions of students are dependent on the internet for distance-learning classes, instead of the ubiquitous yellow school buses. This leaves thousands of school bus drivers without jobs, and in many cases, unpaid.

Stonington, in Connecticut, a collection of small villages along the shore on Long Island Sound, became a summer getaway when the train line was built in the mid-19th century between Boston and New York City. Its two largest tourist attractions have now laid off many workers. The Mystic Aquarium has kept only the staff needed to care for its animals. It plans to keep paying the staff but the length of the shutdown may be a factor. The nearby Mystic Seaport Museum is closed for visitors. Its large collection of old wooden ships and whaling artifacts is a big draw. Spokesman Don McFadden said: “The closure and layoffs are disappointing because they come just after the blockbuster JMW Turner paintings’ exhibition that attracted 95,000 visitors this winter, a stunning 89 percent increase over the same time period last winter.”

The Seaport has become one of the main engines of local hospitality growth in the last decade, along with two gambling casinos, nearby. They are closing just as Las Vegas closed its hotels and casinos when giant conventions, that bring hundreds of thousands of visitors, were cancelled. It is difficult to believe that special financial support from the federal government can do much more than keep people breathing desperately. Ironically, a big reduction in the use of fossil fuels for industry and transport can clean up the globe’s atmosphere.

Inter-state life and travel have always been unfettered across America’s 50 states, but that, too, can change. Rhode Island, the smallest state, is sandwiched between Boston and New York. Rhode Island’s governor has ordered all out-of-staters coming there to self-quarantine for 14 days with police checkpoints stopping out-of-state cars. This is unprecedented in the US.

Elements of these situations are playing out across America and the globe. The impact on cultural institutions that depend financially on visitors who now cannot travel is difficult to calculate. The US hospitality sectors seek hundreds of billions in federal support. Thousands of Indian families immigrated to America, buying and operating moderately-priced motels in smaller cities and towns. Where they come in a bailout plan is unclear. Big city hotel occupancy rates have cratered from 80 percent six weeks ago to barely 20 percent now. Without federal aid, the travel and lodging trade organisation claims that the US could lose as many as four million jobs in 2020. The irony is that the Russian-Saudi Arabian oil price war has brought the cost of a litre of petrol down to about 52 US cents (Rs 40), approximately half the cost of a litre in India. But the problem is whatever the price of fuel, there is no place to go.

—The writer has worked in senior positions at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN and also consults for several Indian channels

Lead picture: Miami Beach in the US has been shut down in an effort to contain the coronavirus. File Photo by Highsmith, Carol M

Did you find apk for android? You can find new Free Android Games and apps.

News Update