Boy does it feel like shit is starting to hit the fan with the coronavirus. SXSW here in Austin got cancelled, the Houston rodeo got cancelled, NBA is postponed, 30 day Europe travel ban, Road to the Horse postponed, talk of postponing the Olympics (or not), and uh oh, not Tom Hanks.
While I am admittedly not super worried about the virus when it comes to my own health, I’m concerned about what a widespread pandemic could mean for the elderly and my immunocompromised friends, especially if our medical system were to become overwhelmed (ala Italy – which is a heartbreaking situation). The government’s response so far leaves a lot to be desired and the lack of readily available testing could prove especially problematic.
The potential economic impact is frightening too, for everyone, especially since we’re already seeing the trickle down in that department. My company makes equipment for the oil and gas industry, which was already struggling and will likely continue to struggle especially if people aren’t traveling. Some of our biggest customers have already changed their budgets in response. The potential overall trickle-down effect from this throughout many industries (except maybe toilet paper manufacturers…) is huge, and definitely a little scary. From the health side of things, there has been some company-wide discussion of possible work from home protocol if it gets to the point where that seems prudent. But since our particular group is hands-on, and it isn’t really possible to work from home, we would have to continue to come in.
On the equestrian-specific side of things, it’s starting to get reaaaaally interesting. What does the Europe travel ban mean for the World Cup, set to take place a month from now in Vegas (a city that already has confirmed cases)? Many events in Italy have already been cancelled, Saut Hermes in Paris was cancelled, and Longines in Hong Kong was cancelled. Land Rover says that as of right now they’re still a go, but in the end it may not be their decision to make, especially since Lexington already has the virus and has been cancelling “large gathering” events left and right. Even the Olympics is starting to look like it could be on shaky ground, and they’ve put forth a 2-year postponement as their back-up plan (and then backpedaled on that idea, so… who knows). That would really toss things up, especially considering WEG.
USEF has said that they’re “monitoring the situation” but for now I haven’t really heard of any regular horse shows or events being cancelled. Organizers do seem to have stocked up on hand sanitizer and are encouraging a lot of hand-washing and caution, but I assume at some point the liability may become too great if the situation doesn’t become more contained, and travel to bring in judges/staff may become quite difficult. It kind of makes me glad I didn’t have any grandiose plans for the year.
It’s definitely going to be interesting to see how this continues to unfold, both in the short-term and long term, and what kind of effects we start to see within the equestrian industry. Even just totally putting the health aspect aside, the financial one could potentially be quite profound. The last recession had effects on the industry as people stopped spending money… not as many people buying horses, or property, or going to shows and events. Not to mention the impact that these big event cancellations has on local economies and a wide variety of businesses.
Have any of you started to see any first-hand impacts from the virus yet? Has it changed any of your plans for the short-term?
So far I think the worst part of all this is that someone showed me this stupid video and now I can’t get this song out of my head for the life of me. All the hand sanitizer and toilet paper in the world can’t get rid of it.