All signs point to lag in Hampton Roads economy

Posted at 12:14 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 21:11:31-04

NORFOLK, Va. - All signs are pointing to an economic downturn for the Hampton Roads economy, according to economist Dr. Robert McNab from Old Dominion University.

The area is very reliant on defense, the Port of Virginia and tourism. Right now, at least two of them - the Port and tourism - appear to be showing signs of a downturn. "Occupancy is down dramatically in terms of hotels. Social distancing measures mean that restaurant traffic has declined significantly also," said McNab.

The challenge on figuring out just how bad it is. Data is lagging behind what is actually happening, said McNab. "You're just having to make policy assuming what's happening rather than actually having measures on what's happening," he said.

As people continue to stay home, some are now questioning if social distancing should be relaxed to try and help the economy. McNab is urging caution. "I think the worst thing we could do is say, 'Look, the economic damage is terrible. Let's relax social distancing.' And then we get a much wider spread of infection and then you end up having to have much more stringent measures after you relax social distancing," he said.

Right now, Congress is debating a stimulus bill that could help small businesses, but the exact details are still being discussed.

As that is all sorted, experts and government leaders agree it's going to take a team effort. "At this point, the best thing we can do is be there for our neighbors. Look out for people who are elderly or immunocompromised," said McNab.

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