‘Carnage’: Millions face financial ruin as coronavirus infects U.S. economy

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For Hayden Peeler, a 28-year-old mother of two, the prospect of getting coronavirus is the least of her concerns.

A Movie Tavern server outside of New Orleans, Ms. Peeler recently quit a second job at a Trader Joe’s supermarket because it paid less than the theater and didn’t make economic sense with a 60-mile roundtrip commute.

In the face of the contagious virus sweeping the country, the Milwaukee-based company that owns Movie Tavern and Marcus Theaters joined even bigger movie house companies such as AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas, and by Wednesday morning had closed all 91 of its locations across 17 states.

“The only thing making me feel a little bit less concerned is I have some tax refund left that I was going to use to pay bills,” Ms. Peeler said. “Now, I’m afraid I will go even more in debt and for another year I’ll probably be behind.”

Though it is small consolation to her or her children, Ms. Peeler is far from alone amid growing signs the virus that started in Wuhan, China, will hammer the American economy.

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In January, 35% of Americans surveyed by the online financial site FinanceBuzz.com said they had zero retirement savings.

A report by the Federal Reserve in May 2019 found that 40% of Americans could not cover a $400 emergency expense.

Without quick action, the Trump administration has warned the unemployment rate could hit 20%. That catastrophic figure would reverse what has been record employment during the Trump administration across all sectors of society, including the lowest African-American unemployment rate in U.S. history.

All that’s over, and like the track of the virus itself, it may worsen before it improves.

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