David Torkelson completed his first shift as a bartender at Prohibition Red’s the day sports died, he said. That is, the day that officials with the National Basketball Association indefinitely suspended the season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
Just seven days after that fateful decision, Torkelson now spends much of his time speaking about his varied work experience, from his recent training as a bartender to previous work in media relations, among others.
“There was just no time to prepare for something like this,” he said. “I’m out there, pounding the pavement and looking for jobs. But the job search sites are inundated with so many people, it’s hard to get my foot in the door.”
Concern about the economic fallout from the global coronavirus pandemic has led national and local business owners to warn that mass layoffs are imminent and local leaders and the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce to urge residents to shop local to help save jobs.
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits jumped by 70,000 last week, more than economists expected, in one of the first signs of layoffs sweeping the country, according to The Associated Press. Wide swaths of the economy, from the travel industry to restaurants, are hobbled as authorities ask Americans to stay home to slow the spread of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Several communities in Galveston County, such as Galveston and La Marque, ordered bars, the dining rooms of restaurants and entertainment venues closed earlier this week.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued an order Thursday banning people from eating and drinking in bars and restaurants and telling restaurants to provide take-out or delivery orders only.
After Abbott’s order, Texas City Mayor Matt Doyle, through a video message Thursday, urged residents in that city to support restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery.
Nationwide, more than 10,442 people had been diagnosed with the virus as of Thursday afternoon, up from 7,030 on Tuesday and just 4,200 Monday; about 150 people had died, according to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Torkelson, who lives in Bayou Vista and has been through his share of economic hardships after major disasters such as hurricanes, told The Daily News this week that he’d never seen anything like his current job search.
“There’s just no industry for it right now,” he said. “President Donald Trump is saying no groups more than 10 people, that type of thing. It really limits the options.”
It’ll be tough not to work for a while, but Heather Crabtree does have some savings, she said. Crabtree is a bartender at Albatross Galveston, 815 21st St. Crabtree and other employees of Albatross and Island Pier Club, 1702 Ave. O, on Thursday afternoon were using the closed day to clean the Pier Club. The two bars have one owner.
“Luckily, our landlord has been really, really cool about it,” Crabtree said.
Crabtree wiped down surfaces while trying to entertain her almost 2-year-old son, who she’d been spending a lot of time with since the day care centers closed, she said.
Crabtree is beginning to get bored at home, she said.
“I’m starting to go a little crazy,” she said.
She’s thinking about picking up a grocery delivery job to make some extra money, although she’s not sure how to manage that while caring for her son, she said.
Cheryl Anderson is more worried about going crazy while stuck at home, she said. The Albatross bartender works five days a week and is accustomed to being busy, she said.
“I went to the beach for the first time in six months,” Anderson said.
Anderson thinks her landlord will cut her some slack on rent, and she has some savings, she said.
She was saving up to pay for some dental work, Anderson said.
“That was my plan — to save enough money to go to the dentist,” she said.
The thing residents can do to support locals employed by the service industry is to shop locally, said Gina Spagnola, president and CEO of the Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber has issued a 14-day challenge for the community to stop buying products online and support local businesses, Spagnola said.
If people need something, they should take a moment to think about which local business might sell that product, she said.
“By shopping local, we can keep the people working,” Spagnola said. “If the people aren’t working, they can’t pay the house payment, they can’t pay the bills. It’s a trickle-down effect.”
Businesses are always stepping up and helping the community sponsor events, Spagnola said.
“Now it’s our time to help them,” Spagnola said.
Doyle in his video message encouraged social distancing and other measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
“But don’t not frequent your small businesses inside this community because they are the lifeblood of what makes this community happen,” Doyle said.