Economist discusses Gov. DeWine’s plans for May 1 ‘re-opening’

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Gov. Mike DeWine

Gov. Mike DeWine

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has announced May 1 as the targeted date for the state to begin a slow re-open of businesses, an economist said business-as-usual will return ultimately when people feel safe.

Bill Adams, a Sr. Economist with PNC Financial Services Group, told on Friday that he expected DeWine’s approach to re-opening the state to go in stages. He said ultimately the state will be back to business-as-usual when consumers feel safe.

“To the extent we see people going back to their jobs and things function more normally it will raise output,” Adams said. “The question is what time on the horizon will it all be feasible. It’s not a regulatory issue but when people will feel safe leaving the house, going to the movie theater or going to grocery stores. It will depend on the mass psychology of when consumer spending changes.”

Adams said economic forecasters have looked at data from China to try and surmise the economic impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the U.S. economy, which is running two months ahead of the U.S. in terms of where it’s at in dealing with the virus.

“In China, we saw some industries bouncing back quickly, especially manufacturing, as long as the supply chains are working,” Adams said. “Retails sales there in March weren’t much better than in February, which was down double-digits from late last year. Consumer psychology has shifted there and it depends on when people feel safe to normal psychology.”

DeWine warned during his press conference on Friday that despite the state re-opening some of the economy the virus is still a threat. He outlined safeguards he wanted employers and employees to take which includes social distancing, wearing masks, barriers when social distancing isn’t possible, more frequent cleaning and sanitation, gloves as well as giving employees more times ot wash hands, and staggered arrival and departure times for employees to avoid crowds. He also urged wellness checks on employees when they arrived at work and for employees to work from home when it was possible.

Adams said there is a correlation between what the state does for public health, the outbreak itself and how consumers and businesses will operate.

“I don’t think there’s a large distinction between what the economy needs and what we need for public health,” Adams said. “When the pandemic comes under control, that lays the ground work for the economy to return to normal. That will be the main driver of consumer behavior.”

Adams said he was optimsitic that the economy could getting back on course. He said current business that closed aren’t closed becacuse of lack of demand, but because of a public health emergency. He said he’s also optimstic the economy hasn’t been overly damaged from the sudden closures from the outbreak.

“To what degree the shut down has caused permanent damage, I’ve been encouraged by our fiscal and monetary policies,” Adams said. “The amount of money and speed from the federal government has been aggressive and much faster than in 2008. I think that is a positive, but it all depends on when things start-up for good and when we can get on a normal footing.”

For the latest on the COVID-19 outbreak, visit the Ohio Department of Health’s website.

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