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ECONOMY: Nation facing minor setback

News about stock market losses due to panic over COVID-19 — as well as an oil price battle involving some foreign nations — certainly has been of concern.

But our economy’s engine is not on Wall Street. It is an extraordinarily complex mechanism relying on Americans making or providing, selling and consuming products and services.

COVID-19 has unbalanced the system. Consumption of some products has skyrocketed.

On the other hand, some sectors of the economy are suffering. Some states have curtailed or shut down businesses such as restaurants and bars, where large numbers of people congregating could help spread COVID-19.

In addition, many people who would not normally take “sick days” from work because of a cough or a runny nose are doing so — with the encouragement of employers — out of fear they have the virus and may spread it to co-workers. That affects both production and, because of lost wages, consumption.

Federal officials, including the White House and Congress, are taking steps to help individual Americans cope with the challenge. Assistance with paying employees who take sick leave — and help for people whose companies have to lay them off because of COVID-19 slowdowns — appear to be on the way.

In addition, some in Washington have pointed out that small businesses are expected to suffer more, proportionately, than large ones. Augmented assistance for them is in the works.

One big step to prime the economic pump has been taken by the Federal Reserve. Fed officials announced last week that they are reducing a key borrowing interest rate to 0.25%. That, too, could help.

For a while, our economy will suffer what one might compare to a common cold. Things will not be humming along as usual. Many Americans may suffer severely from the economic slowdown.

Keep this in mind, however: Ours is the strongest economy on the planet, by far. Our workers and managers are among the best, by any measure, on the planet. And the fundamentals of the economy were good before COVID-19 and will be good once the virus has been whipped.

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