Business News

courtneyk/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Another 2.1 million more Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

This pushes the total number of U.S. workers who have filed jobless claims to 40 million over the last 10 weeks as the coronavirus pandemic brought much of the U.S. economy to a standstill.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


courtneyk/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- During the coronavirus pandemic, more than 38 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance -- and for the first time in history, the nation's unemployment claims have a largely female, non-white face to them.

While the two previous biggest economic crises in U.S. history -- the Great Depression and the 2008 financial crisis -- affected men's jobs more than women's, the coronavirus pandemic is disproportionately impacting women in the workforce, data shows.

The bleak job numbers for women and the economic uncertainty women now face have put the American economy in a "shecession," according to C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a women-focused think tank.

"The way we think about work and women’s earnings is this idea of a 1950s Mad Men era where men are the primary breadwinners and women are stay-at-home, and any income they earn doesn’t really matter," Mason told ABC News' Good Morning America. "That’s just not the case and it hasn’t been our reality for a long time, so when women lose jobs, it not only impacts families, it impacts the economy as well."

Of the 20.5 million jobs lost in April, the most recent month for which data is available, women accounted for 55% of jobs lost, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The unemployment rate for adult women is now 15.5%, up from 3% in February. The unemployment rate is even higher for Hispanic adult women, at 20.2.%, and for black adult women, at 16.4%, according to BLS.

By comparison, the unemployment rate for adult men is currently 13%.

Why women are disproportionately impacted

Just a few months ago, in December, women marked a historic achievement when, for the first time in a decade, they surpassed men with the number of U.S. jobs held, according to the Department of Labor.

The reason why women are facing unprecedented unemployment rates during the coronavirus pandemic has both historical and current-day roots, experts say.

Women have long been relegated to service sector jobs, like hospitality, food services and retail -- industries that are now hit hardest by the coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions, data shows. In those jobs, women also face lower wages, which sets them up for economic uncertainty during a downturn, according to Mason.

"Even though women were more than 50% of the workforce, many of these jobs were not quality jobs or well-paying jobs with benefits, so many women were still living paycheck to paycheck," she said. "During the pandemic, we see that reality come into focus."

In addition, whether a woman is employed or not, the heavy domestic burden that women carry has been laid bare during this pandemic, with women taking on increased tasks at home and reporting even more stress, data shows.

From there, say experts, a hamster-wheel effect often results. Women are historically tasked with carrying the cognitive labor for household activities -- which now includes homeschooling for most parents -- and women already face a gender pay gap where they earn around 80 cents for each dollar their male coworkers make. When household and childcare duties increase, as they have during the pandemic, it's often the woman in opposite-sex couples who takes on the added burden -- which some justify because she is bringing less money into the household.

The demands of childcare placed on women has been brought to the forefront during the coronavirus pandemic as summer camps are canceled, daycare centers close and questions remain about whether schools will reopen in the fall.

"The thing that keeps me up at night is the childcare issue," said Mason. "If we don’t do something urgent and be really intentional about how we address it, then more women will leave the workforce. That’s just the bottom line."

When women do leave the workforce, whether because they lose their jobs or take time out for personal or family reasons such as childcare, they return to a trajectory of decreased pay over the course of their careers.

"Despite the fact that women were more than 50% of the workforce, employers have not really been responsive to the needs of working women, and it shows in this moment," said Mason. "We have to have an economy that when we recover doesn’t leave women behind."

A bright spot for change

Experts including Mason say one positive outcome that could come from this economic downturn is a real chance to make workplace and governmental policies that will help put women on equal footing in the workforce.

"I think women are stepping up and doing their part like they always do, but we as a society need to make sure that we’re supporting women so their careers won’t be stalled, so they don’t lose advancement opportunities and don't lose wages and earnings," said Mason. "This moment provides a real opportunity for the nation, for employers to really think about not only how to bring women into the workforce but how to keep them there."

For one thing, the stay-at-home orders brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have shown many companies that options like remote working and flexible schedules -- long seen as ways to keep women in the workforce -- can work across the board.

"I hope we see that as possible and they create a way for us to institutionalize it," Mason said of adding more flexibility into the workplace. "It’s crazy that women are half of the workforce and we’ve never thought about, well, what would make women stay in the workforce? We know that women have very specific needs in the workforce and it’s not a special accommodation."

The economic slowdown could also give women a chance to pursue their demands in the workforce, according to former Wall Street CEO Sallie Krawcheck, the cofounder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women.

"If we want this to change, nobody cares about this as much as we do," Krawcheck told GMA. "Just like 100 years ago, nobody gave us a vote. We went out and marched and we got ourselves a vote."

"In business, nobody is giving us the CEO position so we have to make a conscious decision that we’re going to change things," she said. "Maybe the conscious decision is that we’re going to get out and march over a mandated paid maternity leave."

"For women and people of color who are in more senior positions, hire more women and people of color," Krawcheck recommended. "We should be buying from each other. We should be investing in each other."

On the personal finance front, Krawcheck points out that the pandemic has shown again that women need to be more proactive about creating their own financial safety net.

"We talk all the time about the gender pay gap, but there is also a gender wealth gap, which is 32 cents for a man’s dollar," she said. "What we are learning now, as if we didn’t know it before, is that we have to take care of ourselves. As women, we have put off things like financial planning and investing."

What happens next

A full economic recovery in the U.S. will not come quickly and it will likely be even slower for women, according to both Mason and Krawcheck, who note that, "when the world moves backwards, women move backwards more."

Industries like retail and hospitality that have a majority of women employees may return differently, and competition in the job market will be stiff as not all jobs return, the experts noted.

Some women may also be burdened by debt, overwhelmed with a lack of childcare options, or facing institutional obstacles when it comes to returning to the workforce.

For women who are able to take a step back from their situation and make some changes, here are five tips from Mason and Krawcheck:

1. Do not carry the domestic burden alone.

"That is a very practical thing a woman can do to change things," said Mason. "For some families, they’ve not really had the conversation about how to share the load, so being able to communicate effectively about what it means to participate equally and share responsibilities in the home is really important."

"Make it a conversation," she said.

2. Pay off credit card debt first.

"Even if it means you don’t have an emergency fund, you have to pay off your credit card debt first," said Krawcheck. "If there is an emergency and you don’t have savings, you can use a credit card."

After credit card debt is paid off, Krawcheck recommends saving three to six months of take-home pay in a savings account.

3. Spend 15 minutes a day looking at your finances.

Spending 15 minutes each day putting together a budget and looking at your finances will "give you such a leg up on the other side of this," according to Krawcheck.

"If you can, getting yourself in financial shape where you’re bringing in more than you’re spending, and then getting yourself ready to invest or buy a home, that’s the way to build wealth," she said.

"Whether you have a job or have lost your job, look at what you’re spending money on that isn’t important to you," added Krawcheck. Take a step back. Get in touch with what matters."

4. Network and learn new skills.

The unique circumstances of the pandemic can be a time to step back and examine whether the work you are doing or were doing is what you really want to do, according to both Krawcheck and Mason.

It can also be a time to learn new skills or get more training, two tactics that will help you stand out in a crowded job market, the experts note.

"We saw this in the 2008 recession, that people did return to post-secondary education and pursued other kinds of degrees and training to make themselves more competitive," said Mason.

"We are sort of in the golden age of online education where you’re seeing classes be offered for free or at discounts," added Krawcheck. "Learning to code, this is the time. Learning about marketing analytics, this is the time."

Another way to stand out in a crowded job market is to "network, network, network, network," recommends Krawcheck.

"This is not a time you’ll likely be getting a job by seeing it on LinkedIn and being one of 6,000 applicants. The supply and demand is out of balance right now," she said. "Network now so you have some forward momentum."

5. Be kind to yourself.

"It’s really literally impossible to work 40 hours a week and also soldier 100% of the caretaking of families," said Mason. "[Women need to] cut themselves some slack and possibly find time for self-care, even if it’s just taking a 10-minute walk around the block or a longer shower. Just give ourselves a break."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved


MaximFesenko/iStockBy CLARA MCMICHAEL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- On a weekend in mid-March, Marissa Molnar was bartending at Hog Fathers BBQ in Monongahela, Pennsylvania, a small town 40 minutes outside of Pittsburgh. That night, the mood in the bar was dampened by worries of coronavirus creeping into communities across the country and fears of a national shutdown.

The bar's patrons, many of them health care workers from a nearby hospital, told Molnar how crazy their jobs had been lately. She described the mood as panicky. She closed down the bar before midnight and went home to her 1-year-old daughter.

The next day, she got laid off.

Nightlife, which consists of clubs, bars and late-night restaurants, is an industry where businesses are often poorly financed and workers are especially vulnerable. In April alone, according to the Department of Labor, 7.7 million people working in the leisure and hospitality sector lost their jobs. As the season moves into summer and states start to reopen, those who support and are supported by nightlife will be forced to confront fissures in the industry that existed long before the pandemic.

Molnar recently reentered the workforce after a pregnancy so difficult she was unable to work. During her pregnancy, she went on unemployment. When that ran out, she qualified for welfare and was on government assistance for about three months. She said she never got a stimulus check due to a complication with child support.

She doesn't qualify for unemployment now because she didn't work during the right quarter. She's put her bills in backpay. She tried to work again at the bar, which was accepting takeout orders, but there were so many workers willing to come in they were placed on a rotation. Molnar said she only ended up working a day or two. As much as she would have loved to work full time, she said, she couldn't because her daughter's too young and childcare is too expensive.

"It's rough because I have bills that I need to pay," she said. "But at the same time, there's no work now."

She worries that once things open back up, there will be another economic crash after people spend their stimulus checks and unemployment money. Bartenders and servers rely heavily on tips, and Molnar fears that even when people do go out for food and drinks again they may have less for gratuities.

Andreina Seijas is a teaching fellow and doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design who's researched urban nightlife for over a decade.

According to Seijas, nighttime workers, in addition to relying heavily on tips, also are vulnerable because of unfair guaranteed compensation and limited access to affordable transportation at odd hours. Seijas has heard of musicians playing in restaurants who get paid with dinner or workers using scooters to get home at 3 a.m. because they can't afford to use ride-share apps. The pandemic has made their situations worse.

"Once bars, restaurants and clubs reopen, these workers will be at the front lines," Seijas said. "They will be the ones whose lives will be in danger."

In some cases, nightlife workers have taken jobs, for now, as essential workers.

Sean Anthony is an Atlanta-based DJ. At first, he heard of venues on the West Coast that were starting to cancel events. Then, a booking that Anthony had in Boston put him on standby. As COVID-19 spread, his gigs were canceled entirely, and he was told that hopefully they'd be rescheduled for October. His last event was March 14. Meanwhile, he's picked up a part-time job at IKEA.

Many in the profession are trying to reinvent themselves and their brands. Innovators have been throwing parties online where guests can donate to the hosts, bars are offering cocktails to-go and some performers have been throwing concerts on balconies, to maintain social distance. But these stopgaps simply aren't generating enough revenue.

As summer begins, many businesses will struggle.

Norman Houston works as a club promoter and wedding planner from Houston. He said that in late February and early March, many of those in the city's nightlife scene began to encourage social distancing. Fewer people went out to the clubs. He arrived early to wipe down surfaces and made sure patrons were offered hand sanitizer at the door.

Houston said businesses have already missed out on revenue from big events, like Pride. He worries about other events further into the year, like Juneteenth and Fourth of July weekend.

"It's a lot of people coming in from all over and people traveling from all over the U.S. for these weekends," Houston said. "They pack out hotels and everything like that. So it's a kind of ripple effect when this happened."

Julio Zambrano, a venue owner from Miami, describes himself as a "nightlife entrepreneur." He has worked in the industry for 25 years and now runs a podcast where he offers advice to up-and-comers. He said the pandemic took businesses by surprise.

"Some people [were] thinking it may be the next 15 days ... two weeks, or so," Zambrano said. "Not thinking it was going to be this long."

Relief is hard to find, especially from the federal government. In April, the National Independent Venue Association, consisting of more than 1,600 club owners, petitioned Congress for financial aid. Last week, in a rare bipartisan effort, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, asking that coronavirus relief legislation include independent live music venues.

Even as restrictions loosen and states phase out shelter-in-place orders, nightlife businesses will be among the last to reopen. Many states will enforce strict capacity limits and social distancing for venues, which will bring a host of new difficulties.

"Most venues operate on 125% capacity to 200% capacity to make it," Zambrano said. "So I don't know what 25% capacity is going to look like in the books."

Industry leaders have suggested solutions to some of these problems, ideas such as spreading out nightlife hubs instead of having them clustered in high-density areas, loosening licensing regulations, extending closing times and using outdoor space to accommodate more people while keeping social distance.

"The truth is that we don't need to be packed like sardines into a bar or a restaurant to experience quality nightlife," Seijas wrote in a paper about how the industry can be saved.

Nightlife has always been resilient, and while the pandemic has slowed the business, Seijas doesn't think it will be down forever.

"There are things that will never change," Seijas said. "I don't think we, as human beings, can live without the social. ... It's part of who we are."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved



(NEW YORK) -- Twitter's new fact-checking label has been thrust into the spotlight after it was used to mark one of President Donald Trump's tweets as potentially misleading.

Here's what to know about how the new labels from the social media giant work to identify false claims:

A Twitter spokesperson told ABC News that Trump's two tweets from Tuesday "contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots."

"This decision is in line with the approach we shared earlier this month," the spokesperson added, linking to a blog post by Twitter's Yoel Roth, head of site integrity, and Nick Pickles, director of Global Public Policy Strategy and Development, from when the feature was announced on May 11.

There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020

While Trump's tweets aren't in violation of Twitter's rules, as they don't directly try to dissuade people from voting, they do contain misleading information about the voting process, specifically mail-in ballots, according to Twitter.

The fact-checking labels were rolled out earlier this month as a way to combat misinformation related to COVID-19, Roth and Pickles wrote. Initially, the labels were mostly used to link back to medical authorities' information about the virus when people posted false claims or misleading information.

The labels appear below a tweet and link to a page curated by Twitter staff or "external trusted sources" with more information about the claims made in a tweet.

For Trump's tweet, with unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballots being fraudulent, the label took Twitter users to a page with links to media reports and bulleted points such as "fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud."

Initially, Twitter rolled out the feature with three categories of labels. They included "Misleading information" (things that haven't been confirmed to be false or misleading by experts), "Disputed claims" (statements where the truth or credibility is contested or unknown) and "Unverified claims" (information that is unconfirmed at the time it is shared).

"Moving forward, we may use these labels and warning messages to provide additional explanations or clarifications in situations where the risks of harm associated with a Tweet are less severe but where people may still be confused or misled by the content," Roth and Pickles said. "This will make it easier to find facts and make informed decisions about what people see on Twitter."

Tuesday's labeling of Trump's tweets on mail-in ballots marked the first time the fact-checking labels have been used on the president's tweets.

The president did not take it well, and on Wednesday threatened that Republicans will try to "close" down social media platforms that "silence conservative voices."

Roth and Pickles said they identify tweets using "internal systems" that aim to ensure the platform is not amplifying the tweets with these labels and detecting highly visible content quickly. The company also said it is relying on "trusted partners to identify content that is likely to result in offline harm" though it did not specify who the partners were or how they fact-checked tweets.

The move comes at a time when social media giants have faced growing criticism for their role in the spread of misinformation online.

"Serving the public conversation remains our overarching mission," Roth and Pickles wrote, "and we’ll keep working to build tools and offer context so that people can find credible and authentic information on Twitter."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FrozenShutter/iStockBy GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Walt Disney World has announced a phased re-open approach for its parks.

Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom Park are targeting July 11, 2020 as an opening date. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are targeting July 15, 2020.

The Orange County Economic Recovery Task Force met May 27 to hear the plans put forth by Walt Disney World and SeaWorld.

The plans were approved by the task force. Now they need approval from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Jim MacPhee, Senior Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World Resort made the virtual presentation on behalf of Disney. The proposed opening will take place in phases and will require a reservation for park entry to limit park capacity. There will be physical distancing; guests and cast members will be required to wear face masks; and plexiglass at registers and other places where distancing is difficult will be installed.

Parades and fireworks will temporarily suspended to enable distancing. Character meet and greets as well as playgrounds are also temporarily suspended. Temperature checks will be conducted.

SeaWorld also presented an opening plan at the May 27 meeting. The theme park proposed June 11 as the public reopening date. Face masks, staggered seating, social distancing in lines are all part of the proposed plan. At rides, there will be hand sanitizer both as guests board and deboard.

At the SeaWorld water parks -- Discovery Cove and Aquatica -- there will be increased sanitation at high-touch surfaces like rafts. Lounge chairs will be spaced out.

Universal Orlando has approval to reopen for the public on June 5.

The Walt Disney Company is the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Morsa Images/iStockBy MORGAN KORN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The Great Recession nearly brought the automotive industry to its knees. A decade later, carmakers are reckoning with a new threat: the novel coronavirus, an unforeseen force that has halted production, disrupted sales and caused financial pain to an industry that was able to bounce back from its nadir in 2008.

The majority of automakers are better positioned to withstand the economic headwinds this time around, according to Jeff Schuster, president of LMC Automotive's Americas operations and global vehicle forecasts division.

"It's more challenging the smaller you are and the fewer resources you have," he told ABC News. "The exposure to European markets is a risk right now. The declines were deeper in Europe and there is no real recovery path yet."

He pointed to two brands that have a heavy exposure to Europe: Jaguar Land Rover, the largest automaker in the U.K., and Aston Martin, the British luxury sports car maker. Both marques were burning through cash before the pandemic shut down factories and forced the industry to come to a screeching halt.

Aston Martin, which is still expected to deliver orders of its first-ever DBX SUV this summer, reported a first-quarter loss of $146 million after sales fell by nearly one-third. The company's revenues dropped 9% in 2019, pressuring executives to seek additional equity financing including a $663 million capital injection from investors and its new chairman, Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll.

Aston Martin said the business is being "reset" this year and a full-year outlook will no longer be provided because of the "uncertainty surrounding the duration and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy." Aston Martin on Tuesday replaced Andy Palmer, who was named CEO in 2014, with Tobias Moers, the chief executive of Mercedes-AMG.

Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by India's Tata Motors, is reportedly in talks to borrow more than $1.2 billion through the U.K.’s emergency coronavirus lending program, according to Bloomberg. The carmaker launched a restructuring plan last year to reduce costs and improve cash flow.

Michelle Krebs, a Detroit-based executive analyst for Autotrader Group, said Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co. was already in a "tough situation" and could possibly close plants in the wake of plunging sales. Nissan posted dismal earnings results in February, with the fourth-quarter of 2019 marking the company's first quarterly loss in 11 years.

"We have not announced any changes to our production plans for North America," a spokesperson for Nissan told ABC News.

According to Krebs, "If an automaker went into the pandemic in a weak situation, it will be difficult to survive or crawl your way out of it."

The Japanese government will likely bail out its hurting carmakers, she said, but U.S. carmakers should not expect the same treatment from the Trump administration.

"There will be no bailouts for General Motors or Ford -- they have lots of cash," she said. After the financial crisis "they immediately started reserving cash and taping into credit lines," she noted.

Also, unlike now, "automakers kept building cars during the Great Recession," she pointed out. "Never, ever did the biggest car plants in the world shut down at the same time."

Several members of Michigan's congressional delegation, including Reps. Debbie Dingell and Fred Upton, are mobilizing bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for an aid package that would bolster the auto industry if the sales slowdown persists. The lawmakers circulated a draft letter, reported by The Washington Post, that says in part, "Liquidity is challenging, particularly for suppliers, and it will be necessary to support demand for some time to ensure a meaningful recovery. In some regards, challenges the industry face exceed those of the 2008 financial meltdown."

GM said it earned $294 million for the first quarter though state lockdowns and factory shutdowns will reduce future earnings. Ford Motor Co. posted a $2 billion net loss between January and March that it chalked up to the coronavirus, and projects a record net loss of $5 billion in the current quarter.

"We believe that we’re positioned well to manage through this because we’ve taken swift actions to preserve liquidity,” GM chief financial officer Dhivya Suryadevara told reporters in early May.

U.S. auto sales plummeted 47% in April from a year ago. Krebs and Schuster agree that April was likely the bottom and sales will gradually pick up as incentives on new vehicles continue. Zero finance deals surged to an all-time record high in April, according to online car shopping guide Edmunds, with 25.8% of purchases financed at 0% compared to 4.7% in March and 3.6% in February. Automakers are also extending finance terms to 84 months and delaying first payments for up to 90 days.

"These incentives have been a lifeline for automakers," Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of insights, told ABC News. "They won't end anytime soon but the incentives will taper off as the year goes on."

Caldwell was predicting new car sales of 16.9 million units before the pandemic struck. That number is in flux now, she said, adding that automakers, especially GM and Ford, could eek out small gains.

"Sales have been quite strong for a couple of years which has been helpful for automakers to retain a level of profitability," she said.

Schuster said robust sales of pickup trucks and the positive response to incentives convinced him to revise his yearly sales target to 13.3 million units versus 12.9 million. His original forecast for sales was 16.8 million.

"It's hard to think of any month being worse than April," he said. "I feel more positive about the industry than even a week ago, even a month ago."

He added, "The industry as a whole is pretty liquid and can survive most things until the end of the year."

Eddie Alterman, chief brand officer for Hearst Autos, said consolidation among marques could be one outcome of the pandemic. He also suspects some Americans who rely on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to get around may decide to forgo these services for a new vehicle, a potential "conquest" for struggling manufacturers. Chinese automakers like Geely may also look to add to their growing portfolios, he noted.

"You'll see more collaboration as costs of hardware rise -- especially in the electric vehicle realm -- and all kinds of strategic alliances," he told ABC News. "The industry is at an inflection point."

Automakers across the world have reopened factories this month, though not at full production. Bentley Motors said production resumed at 50% capacity and will ramp up in phases as part of the British company's "Come Back Stronger" program that includes 250 wide-ranging hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

Rolls-Royce, the 114-year-old maker of six-figure SUVs and ultra-lux sedans, has also brought its workforce back online but is operating at one shift a day, not two.

"In parallel with every luxury manufacturer around the world, our order bank was severely impacted in the initial stages of the pandemic," Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös told ABC News by email. "However, I can confirm that we are receiving new orders from customers, including those in countries that have already passed the COVID-19 peak."

Italian sports car maker Ferrari slashed its 2020 core earnings forecast and extended its wait list for cars to 12 months or longer.

“The second quarter will be very weak,” CEO Louis Camilleri conceded to analysts in early May.

The company still anticipates a profit of more than $1 billion this year.

Krebs said automakers will ultimately have to make tough calls on where to invest now that revenue has dried up and demand for new vehicles could abate if the economy worsens.

"The pandemic will have permanent changes on the industry," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved


webphotographeer/iStockBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- COVID-19 has disrupted all facets of the economy and the fashion industry is no exception.

With over 38 million people currently unemployed, leisure fashion has taken a backseat in favor of necessities.

Buying the latest designer shoe or handbag isn’t exactly top of mind in a pandemic, and experts predict this “recession economy mindset” will have major ripple effects on shopping patterns, spending and the success of major brands.

"Consumers are likely to cut back on fashion-related spending, particularly of the high-end variety," said Paul Sheard, a senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. "In a recession, people have less money to spend, in a world of 'social distancing' they have fewer flashy events to go to, and in a post-pandemic world the mood is likely to be more reflective and subdued."

"In a world of rising inequality, 'the 1%' flaunting its wealth will not be cool," he added.

The impact on fashion may be even stronger now than during the 2007-2009 financial crisis, when the unemployment rate went up from 4.4% to 10.0% over nearly 2 1/2 years, according to Sheard. Fast forward to the present, and in just two months, the unemployment rate has gone up from 3.5% to 14.7% -- resulting in a dip in fashion retail spending across all markets high and low. Sales are estimated to decline from $450 billion to $600 million worldwide compared to 2019 levels, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Looking at the 2007-2008 recession, research shows that overall sales for the luxury goods industry was impacted by less than 10% due to the ongoing buying power of wealthy Chinese consumers, according to Bain & Company. There also was a fairly rapid rebound in overall spending throughout the years that followed.

However, COVID-19 could strike key differences as Chinese consumers are just as heavily impacted by the coronavirus global crisis than they were in the financial crisis that struck Americans.

While experts agree there may always be a place for luxury goods, there will also be fewer people with disposable income for it.

"For better or worse, people's priorities have changed," Fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell told ABC News' Good Morning America.

In contrast, physical department stores are in a challenging space. Most recently, brick-and-mortar stores such as J.Crew, Neiman Marcus and JC Penny filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to declining sales that existed before the pandemic and were heightened by coronavirus closures.

Sheard warned that more bankruptcies and business failures won't be as gradual.

"Even with the unprecedented monetary and fiscal policy support, with this big a collapse in economic activity and revenue, many companies will not be able to survive, particularly if they are loaded up with debt," he said.

A survey conducted by retail predictive analytics company First Insight found that 65% of women said they will not feel safe trying on clothes in dressing rooms due to the COVID-19 crisis. It also found that 54% of men said they do not feel safe using dressing rooms.

Reopening plans from go-to apparel suppliers such as Nike, Gap Inc. and Macy's include precautions to address these concerns, from sanitation stations within stores, curbside pickup options, contactless checkout transactions and quarantined returns.

Routine store cleanings along with enforced social distancing and limited customer entry are all a part of the new normal shopping experience.

“As Gap Inc. prepares to reopen up to 800 stores by end of May, our top priority remains the health and safety of our employees, customers and communities," Gap Inc. chief executive officer, Sonia Syngal told GMA. "As stores begin to reopen, we are actively working to deliver an in-store shopping experience that brings our customers confidence during this time."

Fast fashion may be a bright spot, but will trends survive?

While equally impacted by stay-at-home orders and government-enforced shutdowns, popular fast-fashion brands have been able to elevate because they have the bandwidth (and budget-friendly price tag) to rapidly shift gears and offer items people need now.

"Our supply chain is fast, so when a demand is placed in front of us, we are able to react and deliver quickly," Fashion Nova CEO Richard Saghian told GMA. "Speed and reaction are what keeps our customers loyal and allows us to grow."

Fashion historian, archivist, adviser and administrator for fashion studies at Fordham University Allison Pfingst, said that while the pandemic has had an enormous impact on people's income, the unethically low price point of fast fashion isn't going to lose its appeal.

"However, I think it's very possible that the pace of fast fashion will slow both in terms of production and consumption," said Pfingst. "Fast fashion relies on a global supply chain that has been dramatically affected by the spread of COVID-19. I don't think brands will be able to rely on the same consistent, constant international production and distribution they had previously."

Several experts agree that capsule wardrobes and heightened attention to timeless classics will continue to emerge to the forefront of fashion.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved



(NEW YORK) — In a historic moment for the U.S. space program, NASA and SpaceX are set to launch American astronauts into space on a U.S. spacecraft and from U.S. soil for the first time in nearly a decade.

"This is a milestone in the history of the U.S. space program. It's only the fifth time that people have been launched on a new U.S. spacecraft," John Logsdon, a professor emeritus at George Washington University's Space Policy Institute and former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told ABC News.

The SpaceX Demo-2 test flight will carry NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station and is scheduled for launch on Wednesday. If all goes as planned, the Crew Dragon spacecraft, propelled by a Falcon 9 rocket, will dock at the space station just before noon on Thursday.

As of Tuesday, the weather forecast for the area of the launch site includes scattered thunderstorms and wind gusts of up to 15 mph. Electrically charged cumulonimbus clouds could also be in the vicinity of the launch area tomorrow.

Video on Tuesday showed SpaceX engineers doing the final maintenance touches on the Falcon 9 rocket, replacing filters to help make sure the Crew Dragon capsule remains cool ahead of Wednesday's launch.

The mission passed its Flight Readiness Review, the final major hurdle before lift-off, on Friday.

The last time the U.S. sent Americans into space on U.S. equipment and from U.S. soil was in July of 2011, during the last Space Shuttle flight.

The coronavirus pandemic down here on Earth took center stage during a virtual news briefing with the astronauts on Friday.

"We’ve been tested at least twice so far, and rumor has it we might be tested again before we go," Hurley said. "I think in general that seems like plenty, especially considering we’ve been in, for all intents and purposes, a quarantine now since about March 15."

As active astronauts, they are also used to having their health screened closely, Hurley said.

"We just, I think after all these years, are kind of used to the poking and prodding and blood draws and all of the things that come along with flying into space," he said.

He added that he estimated they have "been in quarantine probably longer than any space crew has ever been in the history of the space program."

Behnken added, however, that this is the first time, "we've seen the rest of the world have to take on the same precautions that we do leading up to the launch."

In this time of mounting uncertainty, Behnken said he hopes the nation can find hope in watching the historic launch amid the global crisis.

"I hope the nation can look at this and recognize that this is something that we are still going to accomplish, this is still something that we are still going to be successful at and we’re going to do it in the face of the pandemic," he added. "We’ll figure out a way to work through it and work around it."

"We’’ll continue to be COVID tested as we lead up to launch, because we, of course, don’t want to take that up to the International Space Station," he added. "But where there’s a will there’s a way, and there’s been a will to make that happen, and we’re just proud to be a part of it."

NASA's administrator Jim Bridenstein echoed the astronauts' sentiments at a later news briefing Friday.

"These are different times, but it is also a time when we need to be doing amazing things as a nation and inspiring the entire world and that’s what we’re doing," Bridenstein said.

Part of the reason the launch is so historic is that it makes the country no longer reliant on Russia for seats to space.

"It reestablishes an essential capability if the United States is really going to be the leading space-faring country in the world, it needs the ability to launch its own people with its own equipment from its own territory," Logsdon said. "It removes an almost embarrassing dependence that has persisted for the last nine years.”

SpaceX and Boeing have been competing to be the first to launch NASA astronauts to the ISS. Boeing's hyped-up, unmanned test flight for its Starliner spacecraft in late December, however, infamously did not go as planned as the spacecraft never ended up making it to the ISS.

"Most people three years ago would have said Boeing would be first, but it turns out SpaceX has made steady progress," Logsdon said.

If next week's launch goes well, it could bring the Elon Musk-founded private spaceflight company closer to one of its goals of leading the space tourism industry, and eventually bringing private citizens to space.

"That's part of the business plan for SpaceX," Logsdon said, "Is to make this capability available to paying customers, not just to NASA."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- After being closed for nearly two months, the New York Stock Exchange will reopen its trading floor on Tuesday at about 25% capacity.

Stacey Cunningham, the president of the NYSE, told ABC News' chief economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis that the decision to reopen was made with the health and safety of employees in mind.

"With the cases in New York City on a decline and with what we've learned about how to protect ourselves from COVID-19, we feel like we can create an environment that reduces risk for people to come back into the trading floor and provide the service they're typically used to providing," Cunningham said.

Most of the traders will continue working remotely and the small number that return will wear masks as they work and follow strict social-distancing requirements, Cunningham noted.

“We're only bringing back about 25% of the trading floor population," she said. "So that enables us to create a new choreography where we won't have people walking across the trading floor."

The interior has also been refitted with plexiglass barriers and markings on the trading floor to keep people six feet apart.

Cunningham told Jarvis there will be enhanced medical screenings for workers, including "temperature checks and questionnaires."

Moreover, all those coming into the NYSE will be asked to avoid public transportation during their commute.

In the first initial phase of reopening, the NYSE will prioritize welcoming back workers from "small, independent firms with sometimes fewer than 20 people that work for them and the majority of their income is tied to their trading on the floor," Cunningham said.

“I think that's an important message for anybody considering they're reopening plans, whether it be in New York or around the country, that if we can focus on those businesses that are impacted the most and allow those that are able to provide a good portion of their services from afar to continue to do so, to limit risk and reduce the spread," she said.

"These reopening plans aren't about going back to normal," she went on. "They're about taking small steps that start to reopen and restart the economy, but still having important measures in place to protect from the spread because we're not on the other side of this yet."

Cunningham said she hopes the reopening of the NYSE will show "there is no keeping us down as New Yorkers" and "as Americans more broadly."

Still, she said her staff is closely monitoring the ever-evolving health crisis.

"If conditions in New York City or where we are or in other locations where businesses are located start to change, we need to be flexible," she said. "It's possible we see a slowdown in the summer and things pick up in the fall and we recognize that we need to start to have plans in place so we can adapt to this new norm."

The reopening of the iconic trading floor comes as pandemic restrictions across the country begin to ease up and the death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. appears to be stabilizing.

At the same time, the reopening is happening as the nation nears the 100,000 deaths from coronavirus.  

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(NEW YORK) -- As the rapid spread of COVID-19 disproportionately devastates black communities across the country, African Americans in the hair care business say stay-at-home orders and social distancing has crushed an industry which relies solely on clientele for a steady income.

"When COVID hit it was like losing my livelihood overnight," Tiana Brown, 34, owner of That Chics Hair Suite in New Jersey, told ABC News. "I am a full-time stylist. That is my only income."

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in April the number of unemployed people rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million. Last week alone, 2,438,000 Americans filed for unemployment insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This brings the nine-week jobless claims total since the coronavirus crisis took hold in the U.S. to approximately 38.6 million people.

Appointment bookings have fallen rapidly in the last few months, and with the future of social distancing guidelines uncertain, hair salons and barbershops within black communities have suffered in unforeseen ways, according to African American hairstylists who were interviewed for this story.

In 2017, black consumers spent a total of $473 million in a $4.2 billion hair care industry, according to Nielsen, and in 2018 the black hair care market was valued at $2.5 billion, Mintel, a market research company, reported.

As states begin to reopen their economies, African American hair stylists, who are often classified as freelancers or independent contractors, still face challenges.

Despite the government extending the unemployment benefits of the $2 trillion economic relief bill to gig workers and freelancers, some states have yet to start paying out funds from the new pandemic unemployment assistance program while others scramble to figure out who qualifies.

According to the Small Business Administration, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided forgivable loans totaling more than $512 billion to approximately 4.4 million small employers across the country since its launch on April 3. But the funds haven't reached everyone.

Basketball legend Magic Johnson appeared on ABC's Good Morning America last Tuesday to discuss the new program he's creating to help minority and women-owned businesses. He pledged to give $100 million to the businesses struggling to get PPP.

Some stylists told ABC News that they have been without income for at least seven weeks.

Whitney Spencer, owner of Crown Salon Studio in Little Rock, Arkansas, said the process of applying for loans and unemployment is "confusing, slow and unreliable." After applying for unemployment and loans in March, she has yet to receive any money.

"This pandemic is crippling to us African American stylists who were built to hustle" she said.

Hair stylists told ABC they often rely on tips from their clients to balance out their income.

"It's been a financial adjustment, what I receive in unemployment for a week, I can make in a day or two," said Signature Image Salon hairstylist and colorist, Cierra Curenton, who works in Washington, D.C. "I'm single, so I have no one to help carry the financial burden."

To help the black hair business stay afloat, some major companies have partnered to provide financial relief.

Mayvenn hair extension company CEO, Diishan Imira, decided to start a GoFundMe to help get money back in hairstylists pockets.

"It feels good to be able to do something when helplessness consumes our world right now," Imira told ABC News. "Black salons and barbers are the backbone for black entrepreneurship and an integral part of our communities."

Mayvenn hair company has gotten together with financial partners to raise money that they say goes straight into the bank accounts of stylists who use their products and are unable to work. So far they say they've handed out almost $1.3 million with a goal of $2 million by June.

Recipients of the funds like stylists Whitney Spencer and Makayla King have been thankful.

Spencer was relieved to see the standard $500 deposited directly into her bank account.

"I dropped down to my knees. ... I am receiving more help from Mayvenn than my own government," she told ABC News.

Having still not received any unemployment benefits, Spencer says she spends her socially distanced days personally delivering professional hair products to the doorsteps of her clients, holding virtual hair appointments and making short TikTok hairstyle videos to keep up her clientele.

"All I know is hustle," she said.

Makayla King, another Mayvenn recipient, must come up with $1,400 by June to pay her booth rent at the salon for the past two months. After receiving the money from Mayvenn, she said some strain was taken off her.

Despite support from companies like Mayvenn, stylists at some small salons say they may not survive the pandemic.

Signature Image Salon stylist Cierra fears for the financial burden that it places on the owner to keep her shop open.

"Even after this is over, playing catch up could be hard for us," she told ABC News. "We have to learn a new way to do business, and quickly."

Some stylists say they are trying to remain optimistic.

"I would love to see people transitioning back into the salon," Shaleea Womack said.

Womack, 52, owner of Head Over Heels by Shaleea in New Jersey, is preparing for the changes that will come once her salon opens back up.

"Clients can expect major sanitary procedures we learned in cosmetology school to be the 2.0 version on steroids," she said.

Some stylists around the country have already begun taking sanitary measures amid reopening, such as requiring masks for stylists and clients, taking temperature checks at the door and leaving adequate time between clients' appointments to thoroughly clean.

Stylist Tiana Brown, owner of That Chics Hair Suite in New Jersey, says the relationships between stylists and their clients can be like family.

She has been with many of her clients for over 10 years.

"I miss my clients more than I miss some of my own family," Brown told ABC News.

Brown, along with many other stylists, says she will keep faith that their salon will survive the pandemic and clients will return.

"Surviving is the only option for me," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ucpage/iStockBy ERIC MOLLO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Georgia was one of the earliest states in the country to relax coronavirus restrictions. Businesses are opening back up again across the state, including in Albany, a hard-hit city of over 70,000 people, many of whom are African-American.

Glenn Singfield was born and raised in Albany, Georgia. He is the owner of two restaurants there, The Flint, a sprawling establishment located in a brick building along the Flint River, which runs through downtown Albany, and the smaller but also popular Albany Fish Company, which is currently serving take-out and delivery.

Singfield spoke to ABC News' Cheri Preston, host of ABC News' Perspective Podcast, about managing his establishments during the pandemic and how his region has been affected by the crisis on a special edition of the show, Pandemic: A Nation Divided, examining how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting Americans along racial and socioeconomic divides.

"Most, but not all the restaurateurs here... we were a bit nervous [following the state's reopening plan]... We were very excited about opening because our customers are asking for us. However, we feel like the city of Albany was a little different than the rest of the cities in the state, so we wanted to take a little bit more precaution."

According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, black Americans and Latinos are nearly three times as likely to personally know someone who has died from the virus than white Americans as the coronavirus impacts racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately. Almost three quarters of Albany's population is African-American, and the main hospital in the area, Phoebe Putney, has reported more than 100 deaths from the disease. It is one of Georgia’s hardest-hit areas.

Singfield praised Phoebe Putney's doctors and nurses, saying he and his kids were born in the hospital, and says he has seen the impacts of COVID-19 on Albany, Georgia firsthand:

"I'm a young black man... not as young as I used to be… I'm forty-years-old. I'm from the South. I've seen racism. I think everybody's been treated, for the most part, fairly. However, there are some issues that can be discussed. In my community, the African-American community has been hit the hardest, and I don't know what that attributes to. I don't want to put the blame on what it could be, but it needs to be researched, handled, and figured out why because it's impacting our community tremendously... If you don't have the means and also the knowledge, you don't know what to do, so that could put a strain on a person of color, or not having enough money to take care of themselves. That line has to be taken care of in all communities too. Not just mine."

Singfield hopes businesses are taking precautions to protect their customers, as he said he has done in both of his restaurants, and that they will be responsible as the community continues battling COVID-19.

"I think that the people here want to get out, but there are some people that are moving a little too fast. They're not taking the precautions necessary sometimes.  Most of them do, but you have a couple people here that feels like it's not necessary to do. I wish everybody would get on the same page, so we get a handle on this thing. We just have to do what officials have told us to do."

Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.

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Juanmonino/iStock(SONOMA COUNTY, Calif.) -- The California Wine Country has been hit hard in recent years by wildfires and now COVID-19 shutdowns. But this Memorial Day weekend, life is beginning to return once again.

In Sonoma County wineries that serve food and restaurants can now reopen with patio dining only. Seats in dining areas must be spaced apart and patrons must also wear masks.  

Mary Geddling, while getting food at a restaurant in Healdsburg, told ABC News, life hasn't returned to normal yet.

"It is a little stressful.  We want to be respectful of the workers and other patrons," Geddling said. "It's good to be out though."

The region's reopening is in testing phase as of now.  Sonoma County has reported 15 new COVID-19 cases since Friday and is watching to see if numbers rise.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Elena Medoks/iStockBy PAULINA TAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Whitney Hu knows the route by heart. Every Saturday morning, the 29-year-old wakes up at 6 o'clock to go to a theater-turned-warehouse in the heavily immigrant neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in New York City. There, she slips into the routine she has been performing since the start of New York state's coronavirus lockdown in mid-March.

On this particular day, Hu, the head of South Brooklyn Mutual Aid, a local food relief group in the borough, is joined by Shahana Hanif, another 29-year-old spearheading an emergency food program of her own with her younger sister Sabia, 28.

Hu and Shahana proceed to assemble 403 boxes, each of which are filled with enough food to feed a family of five.

This week's menu of free goods includes pasta, rice, bananas, lemons, apples, tomatoes, broccoli, eggs, bread and vegetable oil. Boxes are also customized to include baby diapers, food tailored to specific cultures, and additional resources if they are delivered to larger families.

"The only help we can't provide are rent assistance and COVID-19 funeral assistance," said Hu. "Those are tougher conversations to have, and for now we could only cover their need for food."

The pandemic has thrust the country into a new normal of survival for some. Hu and the Hanif sisters are just three young leaders taking a stand because they say the government is not doing enough to help their most vulnerable neighbors: low-income immigrants and especially the undocumented community, who are not eligible for bare necessities like food stamps and stimulus checks because they either don't file taxes or they don't have Social Security numbers.

California, whose more than two million undocumented residents are the most in any state, is currently the only state in the country to offer coronavirus-related financial support for undocumented immigrants, allocating $75 million to the program. Applications for the funding are approved on a first-come, first-served basis.

"The coronavirus outbreak has revealed so many underlying problems and just how much our undocumented community are suffering," said Sabia, who with Shahana has crowd-raised more than $34,000 to support undocumented Bangladeshis in their hometown of Kensington, Brooklyn, also known as "Little Bangladesh."

The sisters initially started their campaign to help feed the undocumented for the holy month of Ramadan, which ended on Saturday. But they plan to keep going with their operation. To date, the sisters have given 50 neighbors each a $500 grant, along with halal-friendly food.

"These individuals are our construction workers, our grocery store workers, our domestic care workers," said Shahana, adding that the $500 is not enough but that it's a start. "Everyone who can and who is able-bodied is responsible to do something to make sure we can through this together."

"This is also an opportunity for us to give back as a Muslim," added Sabia, referencing "Zakat," one of the five pillars of Islam that centers around donating a portion of one's wealth to help those in need.

The sisters, along with their parents and several of their friends, have given up their stimulus checks to give back to their neighbors.

Approximately 504,000 people in New York City are undocumented, according to a 2019 report by the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Last Monday, the NYC Health Department released the coronavirus death rate broken down by zip code, and Kensington had 321 COVID-19 deaths so far. Sunset Park had 191.

"We sprung into action not out of a desire to save but out of necessity for our community to stay safe," said Hu of South Brooklyn Mutual Aid, which has, up to now, fed more than 2,000 families.

In addition to making occasional runs to mom-and-pop stores and accepting outside donations, Hu works with wholesale food providers to purchase goods with the money raised by her aid group, which has reached more than $23,000 of its $50,000 goal.

Volunteers, some who are furloughed or laid off, then assist Hu throughout the week. The effort culminates in a mass distribution day each Saturday, where 30-40 vehicles pick up the boxes of food to hand out to families.

"It's safer to have the drivers pick up the goods than have 400 families line up outside," said Hu, adding that they want to limit any possible exposure to COVID-19.

Every week for the past month, the boxes have gone to 20-30 families of children attending an elementary school in Sunset Park.

Claudia Lechuga, 40, is a member of the school leadership team and the Parent Teacher Association at P.S. 516, a "Title I" school that educates some of the country's largest concentrations of low-income students.

"South Brooklyn Mutual Aid has stepped in to provide a lifeline to our community," said Lechuga, who, along with school administrators, has made wellness calls to the families of all the school's students during the pandemic. "But it shouldn't have come to this. It should have come from a structured government role to help all our neighbors."

Some of the biggest fears Lechuga has heard from families are concerns that they won't have enough food and money to pay for rent. But for the time being, Lechuga said, those in need can count on grassroots leadership to help them get through these trying times.

"We are seeing a ripple effect of young people rising up," said Shahana. "My sister and I didn't create a campaign to seek out undocumented people. We knew there were already a large number of people who were going to be affected by the coronavirus."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/koto_fejaBy: CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Raymond Copeland took pride in his work and being called one of "New York's strongest."

The New York City Department of Sanitation worker even bought a plaque to display in his car reading "strongest," a nod to the epithet for the city agency, his daughter said.

The 46-year-old, who his daughter described as "hardworking" and "full of dad jokes," also loved to lend his Sanitation Department cap to his two young grandsons.

"He had the greatest sense of humor that was so cringeworthy and very awesome," his daughter, Naeemah Seifullah, told ABC News. "If he cared about you, if he loved you, he would go out of his way to do anything for you."

When the city began to shut down and most people were told to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, Copeland found himself among the grocery store clerks, bus drivers, janitors and more newly-classified "essential" workers who continued to go to work every day.

Copeland died of complications from COVID-19 on April 5, approximately a week after falling ill, Seifullah said.

She said she remembers her father as a hero, saying that he did not stop working "until his body forced him to stop." At least 625 New York City sanitation employees have tested positive for COVID and six have died, according to the Department of Sanitation.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit black and Latino communities across the U.S. with furor, infecting and killing people of color at a disproportionate rate compared to white Americans, according to several states' analysis of data.

Some economists attribute these devastating health outcomes to the disproportionate percentage of minorities who are deemed "essential workers" in this crisis, and being asked to continue coming to work -- potentially exposing themselves and their families to the virus -- while many others are able to work from home.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also pinned the overrepresentation of some racial and ethnic groups among critical workers as a possible contributing factor to the higher rates of infections in those communities.

"The risk of infection may be greater for workers in essential industries who continue to work outside the home despite outbreaks in their communities, including some people who may need to continue working in these jobs because of their economic circumstances," the CDC states on its website in a post breaking down "COVID-19 in Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups."

People of color (black, Latino, Asian American and other non-whites) account for 43% of all essential workers in the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an analysis of data released earlier this week by the Economic Policy Institute. White Americans still make up a majority of essential workers nationally, according to the data.

While black Americans represent just over 13% of the population according to the Census, black workers encompass 15% of all essential workers in the pandemic, according to the EPI data. Meanwhile, Hispanics or Latinos represent just over 18% of the population, but make up 21% of the essential workforce.

In some places in the U.S., including the epicenter of the outbreak where Copeland worked, New York City, black and Latino workers represent an even greater share of the essential workforce.

In New York City, 75% of all the city's essential workers are people of color, according to a report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

"It seems like people of color are disproportionately contracting COVID, especially if they are disproportionately working in a sector that is deemed 'essential,'" Margaret Poydock, a policy associate at the EPI who co-authored the analysis, told ABC News.

"I think the occupations and industries that are deemed essential now have always been essential, and obviously in a time of crisis, in this coronavirus pandemic, it is imperative that they do receive workplace protections, such as personal protective equipment," Poydock added.

Andre Perry, author of the book Know Your Price and a fellow at the Brookings Institution whose research focuses on race and economic inclusion, told ABC News that, "We’ve known for a long time that black and brown people are disproportionately are in occupations that require us to leave our houses."

Perry cited a study released early the pandemic, in mid-March, which warned less than one in five black workers and approximately one in six Latino workers are able to telework.

"I was in a conversation with scholars where they debated should they be called 'heroes' or 'hostages,'" Perry said of essential workers in the pandemic. "I think they could be considered both."

"They deserve our credit and our admiration, but it's not like they have a choice here," he added. "Go to work or starve."

Years of structural racism in housing, education and across all industries has contributed to the overrepresentation of minority workers in these typically low-wage "essential" positions in the current pandemic, according to Perry.

The EPI data on essential workers found that half of essential industries have a median hourly wage that is less than the nonessential workforce's median hourly wage.

"Pay only reflects what we feel people are worth," Perry said. "They are essential but they are also replaceable, so it reduces the wages that they will get."

Moreover, Perry said that according to his research, people of color are more likely to live in intergenerational housing, oftentimes with older relatives who may be more at-risk to complications from COVID-19.

The CDC also states that multi-generational households, "which may be more common among some racial and ethnic minority families, may find it difficult to take precautions to protect older family members or isolate those who are sick, if space in the household is limited."

As deaths among essential workers -- especially among people of color -- rise during the pandemic, there have been widespread calls for increased access to PPE, hazard pay, better paid sick leave and more worker protections.

While some improvements have been made, advocates say it is still not enough to protect workers. Frontline and essential worker protections are a keystone part of the Heroes Act that passed in the House last Friday, though the measure is not expected to be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“It’s hard to blame any one person or group of people but we’ve developed a culture in which profit margins are more valued than people," Perry said of why it has been so hard to take care of essential workers.

He added that the heads of corporations that "can make adjustments to pay structure that will enable employees to get better benefits" are the people who "don’t come in contact, don’t interact with essential workers."

Poydock said that labor unions have especially stepped up to the plate to fight for workers in the pandemic.

"The Trump administration has not provided these workers with these essential protections," she said. "Unions have been fighting for these workers to receive these protections."

She added that according to their research, "a union worker on average makes about 12% higher on average than their non-union counterpart."

While Seifullah said it's hard to know what better precautions could have been taken for her father, she thinks these essential workers who are risking their lives just to do their job deserve more.

"These people are putting themselves out there to make sure that our way of life is more comfortable," she said. "I know that they deserve a lot and they are being put at risk."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/coldsnowstormBy: KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Canlis is a renowned fine-dining restaurant that has been a staple of the Seattle restaurant scene for nearly 70 years.

It features a James Beard Award-winning chef and has boasted menu items like caramelized mussels, fried rabbit with garden herbs and soufflé, all prepared as works of art.

But as the coronavirus pandemic tore through the country, first in the Pacific Northwest and then in New York and elsewhere, Canlis and other fine dining establishments have had to do some serious soul-searching as they scrambled to stay alive and afloat amid orders that banished in-person dining.

Even as those restrictions have been eased in recent days, questions remain about what the future of dining will look like and top-notch eateries surveyed by ABC News have answers, from menu changes to mission changes.

The answer, for Canlis was straightforward, but not easy: "fine dining is not what people need right now."

Mark Canlis -- co-owner of the iconic Seattle restaurant with a decades long reputation for outstanding food service -- was among the first to say that out loud.

Shortly after the first U.S. case of the deadly virus hit Seattle in January, Canlis got the team together to assess it options and plan for a new normal, where fine dining would potentially no longer be a fit.

"We sat down and said, 'OK it seems like the writing's on the wall, but what are the new rules here?' And that was the first thing that hit us was, I don't think that fine dining is what people need right now," Canlis said.

After 69 years with three generations of Canlis men at the helm, he said, "now we have an obsolete businesses -- let's just admit it and then we started listing those new rules -- It's easily the hardest thing we've ever done."

Since March, when the restaurant announced it would close its dining room, Canlis has successfully reimagined itself as a multifaceted food supply service.

"Six days later we opened an entirely different company -- we opened three different concepts in a week," Mark Canlis said, excited and proud of their new ventures. "A lot has been stripped away from us and also a lot is still here. And one of the things that's still here is a huge kitchen, a big staff, a willingness to work and we're on a freeway basically," he joked, noting they have found a way to make their relatively undesirable location work to their advantage.

"So we opened as a drive-through," Canlis said. "We could take 20 cars in the driveway and serve eight of them at a time. We completely restructured the entrance to the restaurant and traffic pattern because on day one the lines were over an hour to get a burger."

They utilized their abundant meat supply, which would ordinarily go to a dinner service, ground it up into hamburgers, baked fresh buns and he said the move "was wildly successful."

"The next day we opened up a bagel shed. We happened to have a shipping container in our parking lot that has a bread oven and a flour mill in it. Our expediter who no longer had a job was from [Manhattan's] Lower East Side, this Jewish woman who said, 'I am a bada-- baker,'" Canlis said with a laugh.

Their chef Brady Williams who had tasted her bagels, asked how many she could make in a day and she confidently cranked out 600, Canlis recalled. "So we just opened at 8 in the morning for coffee and bagels and again, the lines were nuts."

On the third day, Canlis started a family meal-delivery service that put its employees, from servers and reservationists to dish washers and pianists, who would have been without jobs, into the driver’s seat -- literally. "We just hired our entire staff as drivers and started delivering the dinners all over the city," he said.

Family box meals change by the day and include options like Wagyu beef meatloaf with spicy ketchup, for instance and dry-aged duck carnitas enchiladas, as well as buttermilk fried chicken and a "weekend kit" that includes burgers, pasta salad and more.

Canlis also began rounding up the produce from its local farm purveyors to sell community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes. "We started buying from all of our same vendors and when we had all this extra stuff we would make CSA boxes out of them. Then we started delivering cocktail kits and wine out of our cellar," he said.

Their private dining coordinator shared another idea to riff off a game the staff "love to play together" and suggested "what if we play bingo with the city and put bingo cards in the dinners we're delivering, and just livestream it to people?"

So every Friday night at 8:30 p.m. local time, Brian Canlis suits up in a tuxedo and hosts the livestream event "to like 4,000 people," he said. They've even enlisted top-name musical talent to provide some additional entertainment, like The Fray singer Isaac Slade, who will perform next week. "It's the goofiest, hokiest, homespun thing," Canlis said with a laugh, "but hundreds and hundreds of [messages] from families have come in that say, 'this is the highlight of our week, will you send us more bingo cards?'"

The dinner boxes that Canlis sells also include a flower, a candle and other things to set the ambiance, even a link to livestream the restaurants' piano players, "so you can have the experience with the Canlis dinner."

In lieu of using third-party delivery service apps to communicate orders from consumer to restaurants, Canlis invented a new option with their former reservation platform Tock.

"We called them and said, 'we're trying to hack your reservation system to make it a delivery system, can you guys help?'" Canlis said. The Chicago-based company was also shut down due to the pandemic, but it's CEO "Nick Kokonas called in a team of programmers who worked round the clock for 72 hours" to build the new system that "allows a restaurant to basically be the restaurant and delivery without relying on a third-party carrier to make it a more profitable venture."

Thinking back, Canlis said, "12 weeks ago it was like how do we keep 150 employees working and fine dining is a really inefficient labor model, so it took all of those different ideas to keep everybody employed. But we have not had to lay off a single person."

Although things look "scary and devastating," he highlighted the importance of remembering "the truth, which is that we can do this."

"I think so many people think this is so far from what Canlis used to do, but I think it has been more Canlis than ever in these past few weeks and I feel very much like we're the same company we always were even if our product looks wildly different," he said.

Famed French chef Ludo Lefebvre removed art from the walls of his intimate 26-seat dining room at Michelin-starred Trois Mec after being forced to shut down and tried to think of a way forward.

Even a reinvented service would be a far cry from a thoughtfully curated and exceptionally executed tasting menu experience that high-level chefs and owners worked passionately for decades to cultivate.

"It's like somebody broke up with you. And now I've got to figure out how to create a new relationship with them," Krissy Lefebvre, who helms front-end operations for her husband's Los Angeles group of restaurants, told ABC News.

Now, Trois Mec has flipped the script on its fine-dining approach to instead help with meals that support the philanthropic World Central Kitchen, run by his longtime friend and fellow chef Jose Andres.

"We had a closed Michelin starred restaurant, but it didn't feel right to try to force a to-go program. It will be a long time before we return to pre-COVID life and until then, I feel better about using Trois Mec in a way that can help the community," Krissy Lefebvre said. "[WCK] hired and engaged restaurants all across the country to allow restaurants to keep the lights on and hire some staff to cook good quality meals to people who need it right now."

Krissy Lefebvre said her husband and staff, who chose to come back into the kitchen when they felt comfortable, serve 400 of these family-style meals five days-a-week.

"The Trois Mec menu as of now is non-existent. So it was really sitting down with the staff and figuring out what kind of food that they could produce with the sources they had," she said of the family meals that include "a vegetable, a protein, like chicken and a pasta dish."

Her chef husband and business partner has been in the kitchen since he was 13 years old and said, "all he's been taught is to cook and serve people."

"Ludo doesn't cook tiny tweezer portion food at home," Krissy Lefebvre said with a laugh. "I think you have to kind of go to the other compartment in your brain and kitchen and say, 'let's find the way we feed our family. This is not a special occasion. This is life. This is survival.' And let's give people what they need to survive," she said of the restaurant's thought process behind their new approach.

"On Mother's Day last year we had over 600 reservations at Petit Trois. This year Ludo got up early to cook something like 60 chickens for the to-go menu and he came home and said, 'I almost cried on the line today,'" his wife recalled. "The special occasion moments are just not what it was. He cooks for people he brings food to the table, you see families experiencing it. Now he cooks it and puts it in a box and somebody in a mask and gloves puts it in their trunk."

The chef's wife said, "I think part of the satisfaction for chefs is the reinforcement that you've brought joy to people. So that point of connection has just been cut off."

Asking about the fate of fine dining is a bit of a loaded question with the dynamic health and business ripple effects constantly changing, but Krissy Lefebvre shared a poignant perspective.

"As of today it's dead. But it's not dead forever," she said. "If you look at something like Trois Mec you only have 28 guests maximum and we built Trois Mec so that you felt like you were in the chef's kitchen." But with new social distancing and health restrictions, like seating people six-feet apart and only allowing limited capacity, Krissy Lefebvre said, "it becomes so bare and sanitized that is that the experience that people want?"

Krissy Lefebve argued that "fine dining can't survive at 50% -- it's just a business model," she said.

Although some cities have loosened restrictions for bars and restaurants to reopen, like in San Diego where people can again dine-in, Canlis echoed Lefebvre saying, "it doesn't really work for us or most restaurants that I know to operate with all those restrictions and at 50% capacity."

"We're planning the whole the next stage, which I think will look very different from opening up a fine dining restaurant," he said. "We're just gonna change the restaurant to work for the rules and we're going to open as a completely different restaurant, like a casual crab shack."

The team is preparing to launch a drive-in movie theater concept and will take any next steps in stride with local, state and government health authorities.

While the current plan has "a completely different everything" from uniforms and decor to its menu, Canlis said, "it will be a restaurant built around this economy and these people. Because I still don't think fine dining is what people need right now."

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