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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter — accelerating the economic and psychological damage of the coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: During the summer, businesses took advantage of outdoor dining, exercise and shopping, and families and friends safely gathered outside and at a distance. As the season changes, much of what made the last several months bearable will vanish.

Businesses that have made it this far could start closing in droves.

  • The pandemic has already forced at least 100,000 restaurants to close indefinitely or permanently.
  • Those that have stayed open in big metros have done so by seating patrons outside. And although many cities are extending outdoor dining permits into the fall and winter, restaurateurs doubt customers will want to sit outside in the cold or the rain — unless they spend big on outdoor heaters.
  • Many other businesses — from yoga studios to music schools — have been conducting classes outside all summer. Their customers may disappear in the winter, too.

Washington's failure to deliver relief in the form of a stimulus package is hammering the economy.

  • The unemployment situation is rapidly worsening. "We’re seeing a transition from short-term unemployment to a situation where a lot of these workers are not going to have a job to get back to," says James Stock, an economist at Harvard.
  • And the lack of stimulus money and unemployment insurance is pushing Americans to tighten their wallets — a troubling sign for the economy's health.
  • "The expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits pulled $667 billion in purchasing power out of the economy in August alone," per the Economic Policy Institute.

The upcoming holiday season could trigger case spikes all over the country — or further devastate the hard-hit travel industry.

  • "People are tired of isolation and lockdown," Stock says. Many may use the holidays as an excuse to gather indoor in groups, which dramatically increases the likelihood of transmission and spread.
  • But if people choose not to travel for the holidays, the already-battered travel industry — set to lose $500 billion this year — will lose even more money and shed even more jobs.

It didn't have to be this way. With masks, social distancing and other precautions, America could have controlled the virus. But we didn't.

  • "It's technically completely feasible to have a pre-vaccine recovery, but we’ve just chosen not to do that," says Stock. "We’ve chosen deaths and job losses over health and recovery."

The bottom line: In July, I wrote that the pain of the pandemic was about to get a lot worse. It turns out we hadn't seen anything yet.

Go deeper

José Andrés: Restaurant industry survival is key for economic recovery

Photo: Axios screenshot

José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen and celebrated chef, said during an Axios event that survival of restaurants is a crucial part of the U.S. economic recovery as the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the industry.

Why it matters: The hospitality industry has faced an existential crisis since the beginning of the pandemic. "With new rounds of state-mandated restaurant and bar restrictions, and winter weather limiting outdoor dining, food services accounted for 372,000 job losses in December," the Washington Post writes.

Updated Jan 13, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: Recovery and resilience after COVID-19

On Wednesday, January 13, Axios' Dan Primack and Dion Rabouin hosted a conversation on the future of equitable economic recovery, featuring Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and chef and World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés. They unpacked the pandemic's impact on small businesses and minority communities and spotlighting efforts to create an inclusive economy.

José Andrés discussed the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality and food industry, stressing the survival of restaurants as a critical part of the U.S. economic recovery.

  • On the food industry's need for federal support: "Restaurants will open again, and the issue is: how many are we going to lose from today until the next three, six months, or one year until everything goes back to normal? We have to make sure that the federal government is behind those businesses that are badly affected by this pandemic."
  • On ensuring living wages for workers: "We need to make sure that ... the food industry is not an industry that lives on the fringe of almost poverty, but that every American employee, every restaurant worker will make a decent living."

Rep. Ro Khanna unpacked the pandemic's impact on rural and minority communities and outlined a strategy for the Federal Reserve Board to better target their efforts.

  • On having the Fed scrutinize how they've been lending: "[We need] to make sure that lending isn't concentrated just to financial institutions and large corporations, that they're using their regional banks to be regional economic development banks considering rural and minority communities."
  • On taking a long-term approach to economic recovery: "We need to infuse [the Small Business Administration] with loans. I would do $10 trillion over 10 years to have 200,000 more loans to small businesses across America."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with Mastercard's strategic growth Vice Chairman and President Michael Froman who discussed the role of the private sector in times of crisis.

  • "The private sector can do a lot. And by this I mean not just philanthropy or corporate social responsibility or ESG efforts. As important as all of those are, the key is really getting companies to look at their products and services, technology and expertise and explore what they can do to have a positive social impact on a commercially sustainable basis."

Thank you Mastercard for sponsoring this event.

Trump sues New York Times and his niece over tax report

Former President Trump hosting a boxing match in Hollywood, Florida on Sept. 11. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against the New York Times and his niece Mary Trump on Tuesday over the news outlet's reporting on his tax records, the Daily Beast first reported.

Details: The lawsuit, filed in New York's Dutchess County, alleges the NYT "engaged in an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly-sensitive records" and that it "convinced" Mary Trump to "smuggle records out of her attorney's office and turn them over to The Times."