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ODU economics professor says mask lift should boost local economy

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Posted at 12:12 PM, May 14, 2021

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Federal officials have cleared the way for those who are fully vaccinated to put the mask away in most situations. The lift is a big win for struggling businesses, says Old Dominion University economics professor Robert McNab.

"That's going to improve business confidence and consumer confidence considerably," he said.

McNab said pre-pandemic, Virginia's economy grew for 11 straight quarters, then shrunk a whopping 27% in the second quarter of 2020. He's now forecasting an uptick.

"We should see a considerable uptick in travel and tourism this summer as a result," McNab said.

The hospitality and restaurant industry significantly struggled, with 14,000 jobs lost, McNab said. McNab says the lift could be beneficial to businesses as we approach Memorial Day weekend.

"If Virginia can closely align with the CDC as soon as possible, it will be great for businesses in Hampton Roads," he said.

McNab says the mask lift will likely change consumer behavior that in turn will boost local businesses.

"That delivery service from a restaurant or grocery store you are used to could change to you driving and getting things," McNab said.

He believes at the end of the day, it's about vaccinations and their economic impact. The lagging labor force will rise with more employees vaccinated, and in general, more people will feel reassured.

"What we should expect in coming months is labor market demand increases, consumer demand increases, and we should have a rapidly expanding economy through this coming season," McNab said.