Commentary

Coronavirus Impact: How a Crisis Is Changing the U.S. Image

The coronavirus is changing how we live our daily lives. Taking a look at how the global pandemic has affected various aspects of life in the United States reveals the unique nature of this crisis.

Workers in the tourism industry are worrying about their livelihoods as governments across the world close borders, prohibit large gatherings and implement strict quarantines on entire regions and countries.

We spoke with several travel and hospitality workers. Each had their own story, but echoed similar concerns about the uncertainty about their future. In looking at an unprecedented worldwide coronavirus outbreak, they turned to the past: how their tourism industry had survived devastating hurricanes and destructive civil wars. They will survive this, too, they said.

A selection of their remarks is below. These interviews, conducted by telephone and email, have been edited and condensed for clarity.

TRANSPORTATION

Carlos Tamarit, 62, has worked as a driver for EmpireCLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services in New Jersey for more than five years. He was laid off on Sunday.

With your family’s health concerns, are you worried about being exposed to the coronavirus?

As drivers we’re putting ourselves at risk. If coronavirus is coming from other countries, it’s coming from the airports, and who’s going to the airports? We do. Everyone who gets into the car is potentially a carrier. But in our position it’s either work and eat, or don’t work and don’t eat.

TOUR GUIDES

Jacob Knapp, 39, a tour guide working for Bespoke Lifestyle Management and living in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, has been out of work since Monday. On Sunday, the territory issued one of the most restrictive lockdowns in the United States.

You’ve not been able to give a tour since Sunday. How does it feel to be out of work?

I have a lot of worries. I have two boys — 2 and 4 years old, and one is diabetic and I have to be sure there’s always money for insulin — so I always have to provide. I just can’t not provide.

Something I learned with Hurricane Maria is you have to have a Plan B in life, and it has to be a complete opposite of your Plan A. After the disaster, the whole infrastructure was down and the only people who worked were those who worked with their hands — so I got certified as an electrician. I’m worried right now but, down the line, I have many doors open.

AIRLINES

A Chicago-based flight attendant for United Airlines, Maria Alpogianis, 51, has worked in the field for 25 years.

What is the physical and psychological toll?

I don’t feel I have a sense of job security. I really don’t. I’m flying with several very junior flight attendants who are terrified of losing their jobs and their insurance. I’ve been flying for 25 years and I, too, am afraid that I’m going to be furloughed.

When I leave somewhere I become concerned about not being able to get home because of the border closures. When we land we cringe because we don’t know what’s changed during the time we’ve been in flight.