There are no positives to a global pandemic that cost more than 45,894 American lives, including at least 253 in North Carolina, as of April 23. But seeking meaning, solace and even humor was vital as everyone became experts on social distancing and epidemiology. Here are some manifestations with particular relevance to the Old North State.
Asheville-based Ingles Markets is expanding its staff by 19%, or 5,000 workers, at its distribution centers and 198 stores. Food Lion expected sales to jump 14% in the first quarter. Kroger subsidiary Harris Teeter also planned 5,000 new hires.
Burlington-based LabCorp released a $119 nasal-swab device for at-home testing, the first authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Traffic at N.C. airports fell by more than 90%. Uncle Sam responded with $238 million in relief, including $18 million apiece for the Greenville and New Bern terminals.
About 64 million households tuned into Tiger King, a Netflix documentary about a big cat owner convicted of hiring a mercenary to kill an animal rights activist. The plot didn’t work out, but Joseph Maldonado-Passage gained national attention.
Demand for Amazon delivery services soared along with its stock. CEO Jeff Bezos’ net worth jumped more than 20% to $138 billion. The online retail giant planned to add about 2,000 more N.C. employees as of mid-April.
Upstart Zoom Video Communications rivaled giants Google and Cisco as a top at-home video-conferencing platform, creating a $40 billion market cap business.
The N.C. Department of Transportation laid off 300 workers and delayed 88 major projects. Revenue from gas and vehicle sale taxes evaporated.
More than 720,000 workers filed coronavirus-related unemployment claims in N.C., forcing the state government to add 1,100 staffers to handle the flood of applications.
More than 361,425 employees at the state’s 19,504 restaurants were idled. Restaurateurs were restricted to takeout and delivery only under the statewide stay-at-home order.
Early estimates are that tax revenue will decline as much as 5% in the 2021 fiscal year, resulting in a possible $2.5 billion hit to state coffers.
State makes loans
The N.C. Rural Center and Golden LEAF Foundation created a state-backed bridge loan program expected to provide as much as $90 million in emergency funding for the state’s small businesses, with an interest cap of 4%.
Federal government opens spigot
Nearly 40,000 businesses in North Carolina were approved for about $8 billion from the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. A second round of $310 billion promised more no-interest, forgivable loans to small businesses.
Higher ed help
North Carolina’s 142 colleges and universities received a total of $378 million from the $14 billion allocated to higher education from the CARES Act as of April 22.
The Cary game developer’s video chat app Houseparty was downloaded 50 million times in March, making it the most popular social networking app in Apple’s app store.
North Carolina’s 10 biggest public companies lost a combined $224.8 billion in stock market valuation during the first quarter.