Around 54,000 Texans have died from COVID-19 so far, and the ripple effects of that loss will spread for years to come. But there have been economic effects, too, and they’ve been exacerbated by the recent surge of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
Ray Perryman, an economist and CEO of the Perryman Group in Waco, found Texas stands to lose billions if it doesn’t take certain measures to help people get back to work and school safely. He forecasts those potential losses in a new report, “Masked! The Hidden and Preventable Losses to the Texas Economy Associated with Inadequate Protective Measures for COVID-19.”
What’s at stake, he told Texas Standard, are losses of an average of $63,000 per year for employers, for each employee who can’t come to work because of the pandemic. The downstream effects of that unemployment are even greater. He calculates Texas stands to lose about $180,000 per year for each out-of-work person, amounting to total potential losses of about $13.4 billion per year.
“When you let that happen through the whole economy, the productivity effects, the ongoing effects, the consumption effects, all those other things … even a single worker, well, does make a noticeable difference,” Perryman said.
But he argues much of these potential losses are preventable with adequate COVID-19 precautions. Perryman says mask-wearing and other basic protective measures in schools and workplaces are essential to keeping the economy going.
“If we can make school safer for kids to go to school, more parents can return to work. If we can make the workplace safer, more people will return to work,” he said.
He says getting more people vaccinated is also key.
Perryman is especially concerned about the detrimental effects a slow economy has had, and could have, on workers in the hospitality industry; they’ve faced the brunt of the pandemic’s negative economic effects because their work requires so much face-to-face time. That industry is also full of small and minority-owned businesses that he says are often less equipped to weather tough economic times.
But Perryman says his group’s report is merely a forecast. If Texas takes more precautions, he says future losses could be avoided.
“Every person we can get back to work, every person we can, we can get back to school and every person we can prevent from spreading this disease further and allow more variants to spread is going to have a positive effect on the economy,” he said.