Bay Area feeling the effects of coronavirus outbreak

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)
(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

(Courtesy Adobe Stock)

March 16 marks the first day many public schools and higher-education facilities in the Bay Area and beyond have shut down amid the threat of the coronavirus COVID-19.

As cities, museums and businesses continue to cancel events or close, locals are feeling the effects.

Business


Roy Green, general manager at South Shore Harbour Resort & Conference Center in League City, said many upcoming events and stays have been canceled.

“Obviously, like every business in the area, we’re beginning to feel the impact more and more with each passing day,” he said.

The resort serves corporate groups; transient businesses from close-by cities such as Austin and San Antonio; and tourists who come from around the world to visit Space Center Houston, the Kemah Boardwalk and Galveston Island. But with the virus outbreak, all those groups are traveling less, affecting business, Green said.

Some events scheduled at the conference center have been rescheduled as opposed to canceled outright, which can be a silver lining, Green said.


“We’re excited about that,” he said.

Shawn Saadat, corporate director hotel operations for Galveston-based 1859 Historic Hotels, which manages South Shore Harbour Resort, said the 11 hotels the company owns across the nation are all dealing with blowback from the spread of the coronavirus. In some cities, restaurants have been mandated to close. If that happened in Texas, it would affect South Shore Harbour Resort, which serves food, he said.

"We’re hoping that’s not going to be the same in Texas ... but we’ll just have to comply with the law," Saadat said.

In the meantime, the business is honoring cancellations and refunding customers. 1859 Historic Hotels is also keeping employees busy with cleaning jobs and other roles so they can continue to work in these "trying times," Saadat said.

Small local businesses suffering losses from the outbreak can seek federal aid. According to a release from the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Association is offering up to $2 million in economic injury disaster loans to help small businesses overcome temporary losses of income.

Meanwhile, grocery stores such as H-E-B, Kroger and Randalls are reducing store hours to allow more time for workers to restock shelves and even hiring additional employees to meet restocking demands.

Real estate


The effects of the coronavirus will be felt in the local real estate market, said Yolanda Ames, Bay Area real estate agent with Houston Properties Team.

As a result of the outbreak and declining oil and gas prices, the stock market is dropping. Some buyers use stocks and bonds as down payments on homes, but with the drop, they are unable to afford houses and are backing out of deals, Ames said.

"We have seen some homes go back on the market as a result," she said.

More homes may hit the market as jobs are affected by the outbreak and residents sell houses to keep finances afloat, she said.

Additionally, houses may become cheaper as more enter the market as a result of the coronavirus, making now a a good time for homebuyers, Ames said.

"The benefit for a buyer now ... is that sellers may have to make some price adjustments to sell," she said.

Those looking to sell their home should do so now. In 18 months, the housing market will adjust to the effects of the coronavirus today, Ames said.

Regardless of whether looking to buy or sell a house, Ames urged residents to not panic.

"Just know that we recover pretty well," she said. "This, too, shall pass."

Tourism and economy


Space Center Houston, one of the region’s most popular tourist destinations that sees more than 1 million visitors annually, announced in the past few days it would close down March 15-27.

No reported cases of COVID-19 have been in connection with the center, but it closed as a precaution. Salaried and hourly staff will be paid throughout the closure, according to a release on the center’s website.

Less than two weeks before closing, Space Center Houston CEO William Harris said the facility had just begun to see a drop in attendance numbers—about 20% in the last couple weeks of February. At the time, Harris and other officials thought the center would be a good alternative to out-of-state travel for locals trying to avoid the coronavirus.

Saadat, who is based on Galveston Island, said he has begun to see the effects of the coronavirus on everyday life.

"In general, it has affected the island as well," he said. "It is affecting the overall economy. That's just given."

On March 13, Dan Seal, the executive director of economic development for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, said it was too early to tell how the coronavirus might affect the Bay Area’s overall economy.

Galveston County has so far reported only one presumptive positive case of the coronavirus. League City has postponed or canceled all city events through May 4, including the opening of Fire Station No. 6, a pet festival and more.

Community Impact Newspaper is continuing to reach out to other business owners, city and county officials, nonprofits and other sources. This story will be updated with their input.
By Jake Magee
Jake Magee has been a print journalist for several years, covering numerous beats including city government, education, business and more. Starting off at a daily newspaper in southern Wisconsin, Magee covered two small cities before being promoted to covering city government in the heart of newspaper's coverage area. He moved to Houston in mid-2018 to be the editor for and launch the Bay Area edition of Community Impact Newspaper.

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