Coronavirus response ¨C a patchwork of
With no firm national guidance on how to respond to the
corona virus pandemic the precautions taken by
individuals and institutions across the United States at the
beginning of the crisis varied widely as the various state
and local officials have taken the lead. Analysts comment
this is largely because of the federal system of government
in the US that puts considerable authority in the hands of
the states and local governments.
For example, in California, the state with the largest
population and an economy larger than all but four
sovereign nations, Governor Gavin Newsom called on all
Californians to stay at home except for essential reasons.
Meanwhile, on the same day on the other side of the US,
throngs of college students enjoyed their annual spring
break at the beaches and in bars that remained open in
several Florida and Texas communities.
The US media note that in many respects the outbreak¡¯s
early stages unfolded very differently in Republican and
Democratic leaning parts of the country, a disconnect that
is shaping the nation¡¯s response to this unprecedented
National polls from mid-March reveal that, while anxiety
about the disease is rising on both sides of the partisan
divide, Democrats consistently express much more
concern about it than Republicans do. Government
responses have followed these same tracks.
The media in the US has suggested that, with a few
exceptions, states with Republican governors have been
less likely than those run by Democrats to impose
restrictions on their resident¡¯s movements.
One exception is in Republican Kansas where officials
have closed schools for the remainder of the school year.
Universities across the country are closing their campus
classrooms. In some cases, online instruction is being
offered for a limited period, or through the semester.
Responses to the pandemic have been changing at a rapid
pace. First the White House encouraged Americans to go
on with their lives, now it is urging them to work from
home and not meet in groups of more than 10 as well as
calling on local officials to close schools, bars and
This change was due to the spread of infections to all 50
states, shifting public opinion and models showing dire
consequences, including a worst-case scenario, where
America, if no action was taken, could see 1.1 million
Disrupted woodworking industry
As the pressure for social distancing mounts, restaurants,
gyms, bars, and a host of other businesses are either
suspending, postponing or cancelling operations entirely.
Companies, for which work-at home is feasible, are
allowing employees to work remotely.
The woodworking industry is not immune to the impact of
measures to control the spread of the virus. Company
operations, expositions and conferences are all being
affected. A comprehensive and updated list of changes
has been released. Forest and wood product industries
have been identified as critical infrastructure in Federal
This guidance is not mandatory for States and localities to
follow but increasingly many states have incorporated this
in their work-stop orders. The sparing of the timber sector
is to ensure that critical building and paper supplies
continue to be produced during the crisis.
Year-long relief on mortgages and a halt on
US homeowners who have lost income or their jobs
because of the corona virus outbreak will get some relief.
Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to
have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for
up to 12 months.
Federal regulators, through the mortgage giants Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac, are ordering lenders to offer
homeowners flexibility. The move covers about half of all
home loans in the U.S. ¡ª those guaranteed by Fannie and
Freddie. But regulators expect that the entire mortgage
industry will quickly adopt a similar policy.
This is not a forgiveness of debt or free money.
Homeowners will work out a repayment plan once they
recover financially, most likely by extending the term of
Additionally, the Department of Housing and Urban
Development announced that all single-family
homeowners with Federal Housing Administration-backed
mortgages would be shielded from foreclosure or eviction
Focus addressing economic impact of pandemic
The President signed into law a corona virus relief
package and discussions are underway for additional
support to deal with the economic fallout from the
pandemic. While goods may still move freely within the
US, the government has placed restrictions travel to 27
countries in Europe.
The United States border with Canada and Mexico has
been temporarily closed to ¡®non-essential traffic¡¯ which
will affect tourism, but not trade or workers involved in
so-called ¡®essential work¡¯.
New-home construction slipped in February ¡ª even
before corona virus
Builders started construction on new homes in the US at a
pace of 1.6 million units in February according to the
Commerce Department. This represented a 1.5% decline
from an upwardly revised 1.62 million in January.
However year on year there was a 39% increase in starts.
The number of permits for new homes in February,
meanwhile, fell 5.5% from January¡¯s 13-year high to a
seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.46 million. This figure
is nonetheless 14% higher than a year ago. Economists
polled by MarketWatch had anticipated housing starts and
building permits to have come in at 1.49 million 1.5
This all could change soon though as the corona virus
outbreak disrupts economic activity nationwide.
Home sales increased in February
Representing the last full month before the coronavirus
became a global pandemic, February saw the third
consecutive month of year-over-year increases in U.S.
home sales ¨C a streak not seen since 2015. At the same
time, inventory across the report's 53 metro markets
plunged 15.8%, marking the fourth successive month of
double-digit percentage, year-over-year declines.
Before the corona virus affected the US home sales in
February, which enjoyed an extra weekend day for Leap
Year, increased 7.5% year on year following strong
increases of 13.5% and 10.5% in December 2019 and
January this year.
The previous streak of increasing year-on-year sales of
three months or longer began in December 2015 and
continued seven months into June 2016. That was also a
period of large inventory declines like the current stretch
of year-on-year falling inventory which has extended for