Coronavirus could disrupt the local economy before the first reported infection.


"Think about nightmare scenarios, what if there are a large number of Coronavirus cases around the time Jazz Fest is supposed to start?  Odds are they'll cancel Jazz Fest."

The words of Tulane Economics Professor Douglas Nelson conjure a cultural disaster as much as an economic disaster for New Orleans. 

"People won't come anyway if they think big collections of people mean big exposure to Coronavirus.  If we had a hundred cases in New Orleans that were new cases, a week or two before Jazz Fest, they would almost have to cancel it."

Nelson says fear of contracting Coronavirus could make people self-quarantine.  Such actions would have a disastrous effect New Orleans where large-scale events are part of the culture as they are a draw for tourists. 

But before New Orleans folds up the tents and cancels performances of shows, concerts and event, the economy of city can be shaken just by the threat of Coronavirus. 

UNO Professor Janet Speyer talked about the psychological and economic impact on tourism. 

"Tourists would feel hesitant about flying with other passengers.  And then as the U.S. economy goes into a potential recession, consumers don't travel as much."

Speyer says tourist travel will likely take the hit first with convention travel being affected, next.

"As businesses plan for travel such as conventions, they might make a decision to not have as many people travel.  So that would obviously affect the New Orleans economy quite a bit."

The two combined pullbacks in spending and booking numbers mean over time hotels, restaurants, and lounges will start shedding employees as profit margins narrow. 

As the world's economy shudders from the effects of Coronavirus the slowdown of the Chinese economy is already having an effect on Louisiana.

The prime example, ports on the West Coast.  Unlike West Coast ports, which handle a lot of retail products made in China, the Port of New Orleans handles different kinds of Chinese-made items bound for American industries.  Walter Lane, the Chair of the Department of Economics and Finance the University of New Orleans, says an interruption in the supply chain will ultimately be felt in the wallets of working New Orleanians.

"We are port economy and imports and exports have been affected," Lane says.  "The supply chain, a lot of parts made in the United States use parts made in China and many people haven't been able to get those parts.  That's slowing up a lot of things in the U.S. and so it's not passing through the Port as well."

Lane says as imports slow, hiring will cease before layoffs begin.  As the job market tightens families will cut budgets and the ripple effect will be felt through the local economy. 

Coronavirus is starting to have an effect on the U.S. economy already, as Thursday's 11-hundred point drop of the Dow Jones Industrial Average has already shown.