Coronavirus Outbreak Virginia

Customers Tim Beinz and John Kuentz walk into a restaurant Monday, March 16, 2020, in Richmond, Va. The two are part of a construction crew from out of town that is working in the area and hopes restaurants will not close.

(The Center Square) – Business groups in Virginia are worried about COVID-19's negative impact on the economy and concerned it will get worse, however, public safety remains a top priority.

The coronavirus has caused a disturbance in the statewide economy, the national economy and the global economy. Many people are stocking up on necessities, but otherwise staying in their homes, and some businesses are voluntarily closing. The future of many Virginia businesses remains unclear with the possibility of forced closures, as in other states, and the uncertainty about how long this pandemic will last.

“While it is too early to confidently determine the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19, we are certainly seeing disruptions for businesses both large and small,” the president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Barry DuVal, told The Center Square in an email.

“As part of the Chamber’s outreach efforts, we have seen that the hospitality, travel, and tourism industries are among those who have most significantly felt the initial impact from CODVID-19,” DuVal said. “We are advising the business community to utilize strategies to protect the health of our workforce and all Virginians. Virginia businesses should be prepared to prioritize critical operations, establish teleworking policies (when possible), and coordinate with state and local health officials.”

Nicole Riley, the Virginia state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Center Square in a phone interview that some grocery stores are seeing a surge in customers because of people stocking up, but many businesses that interact with the public, such as the restaurants and bars, already have been hurt.

“They are feeling the impact sooner and more substantial,” Riley said.

According to an NFIB poll from Friday, 23 percent of small business owners have already been impacted by the coronavirus and 43 percent of the remaining business owners said they expect they will be impacted if the virus spreads. Based on her conversations with Virginia business owners, Riley said these proportions also reflect businesses based in the commonwealth.

If businesses are forced to shut down temporarily, she said that could be a tipping point for businesses that already are struggling, causing them to go out of business. However, she said many of these business owners are optimistic entrepreneurs who will try to make due with the situation by offering curbside service, deliveries or other services to stay in business while complying with the law.

To alleviate some of the burden on businesses, President Donald Trump announced businesses can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest disaster loans if they have been impacted negatively by the coronavirus.

Riley said access to loans could help these businesses, but that these loans should be set up in a way that allows the money to be used for operational costs. She also said the loans need to be timely.

Despite these worries, Riley and DuVal said public safety and stopping the spread of coronavirus is a top concern for businesses.

More than 50 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the commonwealth, and two of them – both males in their 70s – have died.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 88 deaths in the U.S. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

The virus is mild for most people, but it can be fatal, especially for the elderly, for people with a compromised immune system and people who have respiratory conditions. Anyone who may have coronavirus is encouraged to seek medical help immediately and avoid contact with other people.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and Tennessee for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.