The shrinking city of Detroit didn’t need any more trouble, but it’s taking a beating from the coronavirus. In late May, the city had 10,581 confirmed cases of COVID-19, roughly 20% of Michigan’s count, despite only accounting for 6.7% of the state’s population.
Detroit was in an economic tailspin for decades amid the downturn in U.S. manufacturing and filed for bankruptcy in 2013. So the city wasn’t in the strongest position when the coronavirus froze production at the plants of the three big Detroit automakers: General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. Mass layoffs and furloughs followed.
Those plants tentatively returned to life in mid-May, but concerns remain about safety protocols, supply chain problems and consumer demand. Even if Detroit is poised for recovery, it’s unclear how far that recovery will go.
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Compared to other areas of the country, isolated Hawaii hasn’t seen nearly as many people fall ill. Yet the island state will face a number of unique roadblocks on the way to recovery.
Honolulu is the epicenter of the state’s coronavirus outbreak, hosting 415 of the 641 confirmed cases as of the end of May. Much of the city’s economy is based on tourism and hospitality, sectors that may be in shambles for years to come.
Amid strict quarantine measures, the number of people flying to the islands has crashed from more than 30,000 per day to just a few hundred. The University of Hawaii’s Economic Research Organization (UHERO) estimates that over half of the jobs lost in April — 116,000 of 220,00 — were due to the drop in tourism.
It’s unclear when tourists might return. The state’s visitors bureau has asked the media not to publish stories that might encourage people to come to Hawaii for the foreseeable future. Even if tourists are allowed back by the summer, UHERO expects arrivals will only recover to half their former number by the end of the year.
8. Los Angeles
There won’t be many tourists visiting Universal Studios or the Hollywood Walk of Fame any time soon — and that’s going to be a big problem for Los Angeles.
Despite its sprawl, Los Angeles is part of the most dense urbanized area in America, so it already faces serious problems when it comes to social-distancing measures. Add in an economy that relies heavily on tourism, entertainment and international trade, and the outlook is grim.
Even when the economy opens up, the city that attracted millions of visitors every year isn’t going to look the same. Gov. Gavin Newsom says California will keep harsh restrictions in place for the foreseeable future — picture half-empty restaurants with servers in masks and gloves handing you a disposable menu.
High density demands a tough response, so it will take a long time for Tinseltown to recover its sheen and the City of Angels to rise again.
7. McAllen, Texas
McAllen is the second-largest city in the Rio Grande Valley and sits less than an hour’s drive away from the Hidalgo border crossing station to Mexico.
While the border city accounted for 62 of the 472 confirmed cases in its county toward the end of May, mandatory closures, layoffs and the demise of nonessential travel across the U.S.-Mexico border have been wreaking havoc on the local economy.
Over 100,000 workers were laid off, furloughed or saw reduced hours in the city and its surrounding area. Though local businesses are slowly reopening, 84% reported suffering a significant financial blow.
On top of that, 25% of the city’s residents already live in poverty.
“McAllen is more densely populated than most areas with [a lot of] poverty and low degrees of educational attainment,” Adam Kamins, the author of the Moody’s report, told Forbes.
With the U.S.-Mexico border closed to nonessential travelers until June 22 at the earliest, McAllen is stuck waiting for the taps to reopen.
The pandemic has robbed South Florida’s “Magic City” of some of its sparkle, and getting it back will be a challenge, Moody’s says.
A key reason is that Miami is heavily dependent on tourism, which contributes nearly $18 billion a year to the local economy. Miami won’t come back until travel does.
The city is a major cruise port and the hometown of both Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean, cruise lines that are under an industrywide “no sail order” that the Centers for Disease Control has put in place through at least July 24. Executives say putting the ships back out on the water depends on many factors, including the development of a vaccine.
Miami’s hot, humid weather also will hamper its recovery because the locals tend to spend a lot of time in the air-conditioned indoors — where COVID-19 spreads more easily.
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5. New Haven, Connecticut
Although projections from Moody’s show that college towns are well-positioned to cope with the pandemic, it may not be so easy for New Haven, home of Yale University.
New Haven has the third-highest population density in Connecticut, which itself is the fourth most densely populated state in America. In late May, New Haven County accounted for more than a quarter of Connecticut’s confirmed cases.
The unemployment crisis has left many American families unable to afford the rising cost of tuition, especially at Ivy League schools like Yale. Undergraduate tuition for the 2020-2021 school year runs $57,700 — or $74,900 with room and board.
Additionally, travel restrictions have put a huge dent in the enrollment of international students, who are critical to the bottom line of U.S. colleges. They typically don’t have access to financial assistance, so they pay full price.
4. New York
One of the world’s most bustling metropolises has ground to a halt since early March. New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with more than 190,000 confirmed cases and more than 16,300 confirmed deaths as of late May.
“New York City’s greatest asset is a large, skilled workforce that is drawn to the fast-paced and highly interactive nature of life in the Big Apple,” Kamins wrote in his report. “But activities such as riding the subway, dining in crowded restaurants and attending Broadway shows may be viewed as inherently risky for some time.”
In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City stands to lose $7.4 billion in tax revenue and begged the federal government for a bailout. The “great economic leader and engine of this nation” is too important to ignore, he argued.
“If we can't provide the basics for our people, then you can kiss your recovery goodbye,” de Blasio said.
The home of Rocky Balboa may not be able to take this one on the chin. Despite launching a COVID-19 Recovery Office to appeal for federal support, Mayor Jim Kenney fears the city “may never fully recover” from the economic fallout.
The city’s layout counts against it here. The Philadelphia region is one of the most densely populated in the country, with nearly 12,000 people packed into each square mile. As of late May, the city has seen more than 200,000 confirmed cases and 1,100 deaths.
The disruption is poised to have an oversized impact on the city’s budget. Unlike other cities that rely on property taxes for their revenue, Philly leans heavily on its wage tax — and the legions of the unemployed are no longer contributing to city coffers. Combined with other stresses, that could leave a $650 million hole in the city’s budget.
2. Stockton, California
This struggling city in California’s Central Valley had its heyday during and after the gold rush of the 1800s and was once the state’s third-largest city.
The metro area is now the 12th-largest in California and has high rates of unemployment and crime. The jobless rate was 8.3% in March, ahead of most of the coronavirus shutdowns, and Stockton has been named one of America's most dangerous cities by multiple studies.
The city also is densely populated, which will make for a difficult recovery because there's "more risk," says study author Kamins.
“We think that in the aftermath of COVID-19 or even while the pandemic is still going on over the next couple of years, potentially, if there's no vaccine, that these are areas that might be less attractive,” he told Forbes.
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1. Tampa, Florida
Tampa has weathered its fair share of storms over the years, but nothing has rained down on the Big Guava quite like this.
Tourism is the lifeblood of Tampa’s economy, and since the pandemic began the Florida tourism and hospitality industries have suffered unprecedented losses. The Tampa Bay Times reports hotel stays in the area have dropped by 40% compared to the same time last year.
The city’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed to 13.1%, leaving more than 187,000 residents out of work. And to make matters worse, Florida’s glitchy unemployment system has kept many residents from claiming their benefits.
State officials fear it may take several years for tourism in Florida to recover, which means Tampa’s losses won’t be short-lived.