I-TEAM: Financial and mental losses will increase as a result of COVID-19

Monday, April 6, 2020
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7


AUGUSTA, GA. (WRDW/WAGT) -- The postponement of the Masters in early March sparked a spiral of questions about the economy of Augusta. Our I-TEAM reports a lot of jobs and money, amongst other things, will be lost between now and then.

Masters Tournament in November might mean a Masters without azaleas, but it's welcome news on the heels of devastating jobless numbers -- that could have even more devastating consequences.

It's almost surreal for people in Augusta: empty parking lots on what would have been the first day of practice rounds at the Masters.

But it's also a powerful reminder of how very the pandemic is, and there are other signs of the time.

In only two weeks, nearly 10 million Americans lost their jobs, but experts are worried families could lose more than just income.

Dr. Jose Vazquez is an infectious disease expert at AU Health, and as everyone enters week four of isolation, he's worried about the cost of quarantine.

"And there have already been people that have killed themselves, because of the fear of a catastrophic viral pandemic," Vaquez said. "Yes, we are preventing the transmission, but we are doing some major damage to mental health."

Adding fears of financial ruin and that damage could only get worse.

The Federal Reserve predicts 47 million jobs could become coronavirus casualties. That would push the unemployment rate as high as 32.1 percent -- which is worse than the worst rate during the Great Depression. which was 29.4 percent.

I-TEAM found this number translates to a grim reality, one in every 3 people who commit suicide were unemployed, according to a leading psychology publication.

During the Great Depression, suicides skyrocketed 50 percent higher than the decade before. 18 people out of 100,000 Americans took their own lives.

Those same psychologists fear as many as 54,000 suicides in the U.S. by 2021, and an additional 6,000 due to COVID-19.

And these numbers aren't just because of people losing their jobs

"Most individuals like to socialize and go out and do things and if you break societal norms, what happens is you start running into depression and stuff like that," Vazquez said.

Think of all the plans, from Spring Break, graduations, to weddings and birthday parties: all now canceled. People have essentially put their lives on a slight hold because of the coronavirus.

"So, I'm hoping this is not going to go on and, and, and continue like this for a period of time," Vazquez said. "I think there's a right way to slightly open up society, you have to open everything up. But I think there's a right way to open up for instance in restaurants if they had 100 tables and open up 45 tables, you know, and keep them apart."

Which would be good for financial health, as well as mental health.

But again, a later Masters could signify a delayed spring income season for the Augusta economy. But by then, hopefully, this new normal of quarantine and closed shops will go back to the old normal of the booming city.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.