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Potential coronavirus impacts: AAA spokesman, economist weigh in

Posted at 9:40 PM, Jan 21, 2020

COLORADO SPRINGS — A recently discovered virus in China that can cause pneumonia and can be deadly has been detected in the U.S.

A man in Washington state returning from a trip to China contracted the disease, but is recovering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the coronavirus has made hundreds of people ill and killed six in China.

So, should people in Colorado be concerned?

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment says it's closely monitoring developments around the coronavirus and that at this point no cases have been identified in Colorado. The department is monitoring the situation and developing response plans.

But - what if this illness escalates? We spoke to some local experts on how it could impact the travel industry and the global economy.

"What if this actually made it to several continents?"

That's the question economists like Tatiana Bailey are now asking with the arrival of a new coronavirus to the U.S.

Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum, said, "So far this coronavirus is in four different countries already so that's a bit troubling as well."

She references back to the SARS outbreak from 2003.

"The economic impact was measured to be about $80 billion globally or about 1% of China's GDP. That's significant when you really think about it."

She says much of that $80 billion involved health costs.

"It's also reduced tourism and so forth."

Which she says could happen with this new coronavirus if things escalate.

"It does kind of make intuitive sense that probably one of the first industries to be hit hard would be anything tourism-related so you know the restaurants, the shops, the airlines, the hotels and so forth."

This latest coronavirus is already impacting the stock market with the DOW dropping 152 points on Tuesday with hotel, casino and airline stocks taking a hit.

Bailey's advice to investors is to "hang tight. We still don't quite know what the total impact is going to be."

AAA Colorado is saying something similar when it comes to traveling.

Skyler McKinley, spokesperson for AAA Colorado, said, "I would say United States travelers, outside of those traveling to a very specific part of China, this shouldn't be at the front of their thoughts at all...I would say there's absolutely no risk in traveling to Washington."

But if this coronavirus continues to spread McKinley said, "You might see flights canceled if this were to become a big thing. You might see cruise ships change their routes or cancel, but by and large that's what you want to have happen."

He says that's because it will mean people are taking precautions to keep everyone safe.

The CDC has now ordered additional screening of passengers at five major U.S. airports. We reached out to Denver International Airport which is not on that list yet and they say it is up to the CDC to make that call.

On Wednesday the World Health Organization will meet to discuss whether to declare the outbreak a global health emergency.