Will rock-bottom gas prices spur holiday travel despite pandemic?
It’s Monday of a holiday week. In most years on this day, you’d be hearing a familiar broadcast trope about how high or low gas prices are.
As of Friday, the national average was about $2.21 a gallon, according to the AAA. But even those low prices don’t appear to be enough to entice people to travel over the holidays in a pandemic.
AAA estimates that 34 million fewer people plan on traveling this year compared with Christmas week of 2019.
According to Jeanette McGee with AAA, “what that ultimately means is 3 in 4 Americans are going to stay home.”
McGee added that many of the people who said they were planning long drives this holiday might yet cancel their plans in the next few days.
That’s what happened in November, she said. “For Thanksgiving, we’d forecasted at least a 10% decline, and as we’re going through and finalizing our data, that’s looking more like a 15%-20% decline.”
And that’s despite the low gas prices, which have been depressed partly because demand for gas has been low since the start of the pandemic.
Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for the website GasBuddy, said that “in a typical year where income is being earned at a normal pace, having a lower gasoline bill would certainly be helpful and a windfall to consumers.”
But, in the face of the challenges of COVID-19, cheap gas prices have not been a big incentive to travel this year.
“Now, under such economic duress, most consumers are probably not noticing the savings. Or the savings are going to more important things like keeping a roof over their head,” De Haan said.
He also said that although optimism over the coming vaccine has pushed the cost to fill up your tank slightly higher in recent weeks, on this Christmas Day, prices are likely to be at their lowest levels since 2015.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?
This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.
Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?
India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.
Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?
As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.
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