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Shutting Down To Save Lives

March 13, 2020 Featured, Popular Culture, STL Region No Comments

The St. Louis region still only has one confirmed case of COVID-19, but to contain it from spreading some big decisions have been made — both nationally & locally. Flights from Europe cancelled for at least 30 days, major sports postponed, Broadway shows shuttered, music tours cancelled. College classes switching to online only.

Enterprise Center was to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The NCAA had said the March Madness tournament initially would be played without fans, but yesterday made the decision to cancel completely. Both local St. Patrick’s  Day Parades have been postponed.

Some had been upset about lost revenue by not having spectators at restaurants and booking hotel rooms by the NCAA decision to not have fans, now we won’t have players, coaches, family, etc.

Sometimes the right decision means saying no to short-term profits.  This also impacts workers who need their paychecks to pay rent/mortgage and other bills.

We can look back to St. Louis 102 years ago to see how effective such drastic actions are.

When the influenza epidemic of 1918 infected a quarter of the U.S. population, killing tens of millions of people, seemingly small choices made the difference between life and death.

As the disease was spreading, Wilmer Krusen, Philadelphia’s health commissioner, allowed a huge parade to take place on September 28th; some 200,000 people marched. In the following days and weeks, the bodies piled up in the city’s morgues. By the end of the season, 12,000 residents had died.

In St. Louis, a public health commissioner named Max Starkloff decided to shut the city down. Ignoring the objections of influential businessmen, he closed the city’s schools, bars, cinemas, and sporting events. Thanks to his bold and unpopular actions, the per capita fatality rate in St. Louis was half that of Philadelphia. (In total roughly 1,700 people died from influenza in St Louis.)

In the coming days, thousands of people across the country will face the choice between becoming a Wilmer Krusen or a Max Starkloff.” (The Atlantic)

Philadelphia did have twice the population of St.Louis, but also more than twice the land area. It was a wise decision to shut everything down. In doing so many lives were saved.

It’s impossible to know how many more would’ve died had the city not been shut down temporarily. There will, hopefully, be a point where our lives can return to normal.

Will normal be different than what we knew prior to COVID-19?  Impossible to say at this point. However, it is possible to see businesses learning how to live without expensive conferences & expos.

Over the last 20 years, the conference and convention industry has grown rapidly as the global economy has expanded.

In 2017, about $1 trillion was spent worldwide on business events, including funds to plan and produce the events and related travel, according to an Events Industry Council report. North America alone accounted for $381 billion.

Convention centers and similar facilities rely on these events to survive, often booking major ones years in advance. (LA Times)

Right now we’re looking at an expensive expansion of our downtown convention center. Do we move forward or put it on hold to see what the  convention business will look like a year from now?

Will Coronavirus influence the design of the upcoming MLS stadium? More hand-washing stations?

A lot to think about, especially if you’re at home for days.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

 

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