An epic collapse of the gig and service economy is underway, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin warned if a trillion-dollar-plus bailout for Americans isn’t seen, tens of millions of Americans could lose their jobs. This collapse is most visible in Downtown Seattle, which has transformed into a ghost town amid strict social distancing measures enforced by the government to flatten the curve to slow down the spread of the virus.
The Seattle area has become ground zero for Covid-19. Washington state has recorded upwards of 1,000 confirmed cases with 55 deaths. As a result of the outbreak, all bars, entertainment, and recreational facilities have been closed. Restaurants have been shuttered except for take-out food.
Governor Jay Inslee has banned gatherings of 250 or more in three counties, including Seattle’s King County, which means all large events and sports seasons have been canceled or postponed; education systems, libraries, and zoos have been closed as well.
Most Washingtonians are helping slow COVID-19’s spread by practicing strong social distancing.
To those of you that can be but are choosing not to: Your actions could kill someone.
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) March 15, 2020
Retail outlets, including gas stations, banks, hardware, stores, and shopping centers, will operate with a reduced workforce and shorter hours.
What this all means is that Seattle’s economy has come to a standstill. A usually vibrant city is nothing more than a ghost town.
“It’s a ghost town,” Melissa Paulen, 37, a gynecologist at the University of Washington Medical Center, told The Wall Street Journal. “It feels kind of eerie.”
Using OpenTable restaurant data, customers started avoiding restaurants in early March as virus cases and deaths started to surge.
Downtown Seattle is home to more than 300,000 jobs, a 50% increase over the last decade. Many of these jobs are in the service and gig economy.
One of the most famous areas of all of downtown is Pike Place Market, a farmers’ market and tourist attraction with dozens of shops, had a member of the marketplace test positive for the virus earlier this week. Foot traffic in the marketplace has collapsed in the last several weeks as many avoided the densely trafficked area.
Traci Calderon, the owner of Atrium Kitchen in the marketplace, said all of her bookings are canceled through July.
“Some people were talking about losing 70% of their business,” Calderon said, tearing up. “I lost 100%.”
Near the University of Washington, public parks were full of people to start the week. Social distancing has allowed many people to work at home and take breaks outside.
Julie Ramone and Nick Vukmer said their neighborhood is vibrant, with millennials forced to work from home.
“Last week we went to a coffee shop, and it was packed,” Ramone, 30, said.
Katie Enarson and her husband have spent several weeks at home with their two kids. Enarson said she’s avoiding social gatherings and has been ordering food online.
Here are some pictures of Downtown Seattle (courtesy Politico):
Twitter describes Seattle as a “coronapocolypse:”
— me_sanchez (@me_sanchez) March 16, 2020
— Tracy (@Tracy312) March 16, 2020
8 days ago #seattle was alive and vibrant, children were in schools, roads were packed, and residents and tourists were abound. Now it is a ghost town, empty of people and cars. Residents are hunkered down, worried and waiting. Remember, we are 10 days ahead of where NYC will be. pic.twitter.com/lUy0mwPzvL
— Naveed Jamali (@NaveedAJamali) March 12, 2020
5:15 pm, downtown Seattle, ghost town. pic.twitter.com/YxSzOph8yY
— jrandles (@jrandles) March 18, 2020
What’s happening in Seattle is coming to a major metro area near you…