“People were so understanding,” she said, “that we had been out of work for a while and were extremely generous.”

Yet after a few weeks, Davis was coughing and exhausted and had lost her sense of taste and smell. On June 12, she tested positive for the virus and couldn’t return to work when Florida bars reopened. Neither, it turns out, could many others. As Florida’s reported cases spiked to record highs the past two weeks, with 9,000 cases recorded in one day last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered bars to shut down again.

And just like that, Davis and others found themselves unemployed for the second time this year.

The jarring reversal underscores what many economists had been stressing for months: That the economy and the job market can’t regain their health until business shutdowns have lasted long enough to reduce infections and most Americans feel confident enough to return to restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping malls and airports.

“It is the virus, not lockdowns, that dictates the course of the economy,” said Yongseok Shin, an economist at Washington University and a research fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. “We cannot have a full economic recovery without reining in the epidemic.

Even before Texas’s governor shut down bars in the states again last week, Michael Neff had decided to re-close his, the Cottonmouth Club in Houston. In March, Neff had initially closed the Cottonmouth and laid off his 10 employees. Late last month, he reopened. He brought back two employees with precautions — requiring customers to wear masks except when seated, eliminating bar seating, developing a contactless menu and erecting a barrier at the bar’s entrance.

It didn’t work. After being cooped up for months, bar-goers appeared in no mood for social distancing, especially when they could visit other bars with fewer restrictions. Employees at the Cottonmouth were spending most of their time monitoring customers’ behavior.

Then he began hearing of bars where the entire staff had tested positive for the coronavirus. Two weeks ago, Neff decided to shut down again on his own.



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