COVID-19

Gas prices are low ahead of Memorial Day. But will people travel?

Justin Ho May 22, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Gas prices heading into the Memorial Day weekend are at their lowest levels in nearly two decades. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
COVID-19

Gas prices are low ahead of Memorial Day. But will people travel?

Justin Ho May 22, 2020
Gas prices heading into the Memorial Day weekend are at their lowest levels in nearly two decades. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Gas prices heading into the Memorial Day weekend are at their lowest levels in nearly two decades. According to AAA, the national average gas price is just above $1.90 a gallon.

But on this unofficial start to the summer holiday season, that might not be enough to get people to hit the road.

AAA usually issues a Memorial Day travel forecast around this time, but this year the company said COVID-19 undermined the data it uses to make that prediction.

“It’s not necessarily reliable, right? There’s not much going on with the economy right now to give us good indicators of what we can expect for travel and the holiday weekend,” said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson.

Casselano says people will still travel, but overall, travel could fall to a record low for the weekend, despite cheap gas prices.

The bright side? “We’re nearly a dollar cheaper than a year ago, and we’re not going to jump back up to the typical summer numbers anytime soon,” Casselano said of gas prices.

Traffic has started picking up, though. Patrick De Haan at the price tracking company GasBuddy says that means demand for gas is rising, too.

“It’s still down 20% from where it was prior to coronavirus, but the rebound has caused gas prices to rebound as well,” De Haan said.

He says those prices will likely keep climbing through Labor Day.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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