LONDON — He is the hyperbolic news anchor with an agenda, the disgruntled Meghan Markle skeptic vying for Piers Morgan’s job, the British aristocrat insisting he is simply middle class — and those are just a few of the characters in Munya Chawawa’s arsenal.
But during a Zoom interview last month, Mr. Chawawa, 28, speaking from his London apartment in a neon hoodie, was exploring his own persona.
“I make content because I need to express how I’m feeling about the world,” he said of his comedy. “You have to have some form of catharsis when the world throws stuff at you, otherwise you’ll just go crazy.”
Mr. Chawawa’s dry sketches about racism, classism and everyday life in Britain had already found an audience before the pandemic. But in lockdown, his potent combination of singing, comedy acting and rapping has helped establish him as a sardonic voice of progressive young people in an increasingly diverse nation who are unimpressed by elitism and skeptical of the establishment.
appears in promotions for Netflix U.K.
In such a year, “humor has been a much-needed tonic,” Mr. Chawawa said. And the string of successes has fueled an ambitious goal: “I’m working toward being one of the country’s most respected satirists.”
Satire, to Mr. Chawawa — whose comedy heroes are John Oliver, Andy Zaltzman and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others — feels “like a superpower.” That’s not only because of the challenge of execution but also because of satire’s ability to extract humor from situations that are not supposed to be funny at all, he said.
“Anything you laugh at can’t haunt or hurt you as much as it used to do,” he said.
Given the state of the world today, there is plenty of material for him to work with.
When critics called food packages for poor children too meager, Mr. Chawawa was ready with a sketch about a wealthy lawmaker scrambling to respond: “We can’t feed them but we could put them in a film — ‘The Hungrier Games.’” He has parodied British journalists brainstorming headlines about the Duchess of Sussex using the game Cards Against Humanity (“Meghan Kidnapped Peppa Pig,”) and a security guard letting rioters into the U.S. Capitol upon hearing they are white: “You’re already wearing your pass! It’s called white privilege.”
debate over U.K. drill — a subgenre of hip-hop music that British authorities have tried to censor, blaming it for a rise in knife crimes in London.
For many young Black men and women, drill was an important form of self-expression, Mr. Chawawa said, giving voice to the frustrations and realities of life in a period of austerity. Mr. Chawawa said he was disturbed by the appropriation of the genre, with “posh white kids singing the lyrics” as it filtered into private schools.
Born in Derby, England, Mr. Chawawa spent his childhood in Zimbabwe, his father’s birthplace, before his family moved to a small village near Norwich, England. His first exposure to comedy was through his grandfather, whose jokes over the dinner table made him the center of attention.
In England, where his was one of the few families of color in the area, Mr. Chawawa stifled his natural extroversion, which had been encouraged in Zimbabwe. “Slowly, I stopped putting my hand up,” he said.
In college, he studied psychology but found himself spending all his time in the student radio hub. He also worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Norwich, where customers sometimes complimented his English. There, he picked up useful insights into the ways of the ultrawealthy. It struck him when he moved to London that this world could be a mine of comedy gold.
is real,” he said, grinning. He said he would welcome the opportunity for the character to “get some real cultural insights.”
For now, Mr. Chawawa is enjoying the chance to lean into that natural extroversion. “My dad always used to say to me, ‘When you were in Zimbabwe you were so bold.’” Being a satirist now, he added, is “a resurgence of the guy I used to be.”
My husband and I are currently planning a trip to Ireland, Portugal and Italy for August and September. We are only reserving hotels with free cancellation policies and our airline tickets can be changed to a future date. Knowing that much of Europe is closed right now to United States citizens because of the virus, is there much hope that our plans will materialize, or are we wasting our time? What should I watch for? Kathy
Although there are some signs of life — Iceland is newly open to fully vaccinated travelers and Greece will reopen to vaccinated or virus-tested visitors next month — Europe, where case counts are rising in some parts and the vaccine rollout has been disappointingly slow, is still largely closed to Americans. Ireland is open to United States citizens with a combination of testing and quarantine, but Portugal and Italy, like most of the continent, for now remain off limits. Italy, in particular, was hard-hit by the virus in the early months of the pandemic; and in March, the spread of a contagious variant from Britain pushed the country back into another lockdown.
“This environment is so challenging because there is significant pressure for countries that rely on tourism to rebound, which counterbalances much slower vaccination rates in Europe,” said Fallon Lieberman, who runs the leisure-travel division of Skylark, a travel agency affiliated with the Virtuoso travel network. “So unfortunately, those two forces are at odds with one another.”
Your question, like many related to the pandemic, involves various degrees of risk. First, let’s look at the concrete risk: If you book now for late summer, how likely are you to lose money?
flexibility with seats beyond Basic Economy, and now, especially, it’s wise to book tickets that can be easily changed. Delta Air Lines has eliminated change and cancellation fees for all flights originating from North America, and Delta eCredits set to expire this year — including for new tickets purchased this year — can be used for travel through 2022. United Airlines has also permanently eliminated change fees.
Unlike a plane ticket, which can always be changed (either for free or for a fee), a nonrefundable hotel reservation is generally exactly that: a use-it-or-lose-it investment.
The good news: “Hotels in Europe — and around the world, really — are being quite flexible,” said Ms. Lieberman, who has helped hundreds of Skylark clients cancel and rebook last year’s felled Europe trips, many to this summer and beyond. “While this is a very challenging time, many suppliers are providing maximum flexibility.”
Cancellation policies vary by property, but many of the multinational companies have made it easy, and relatively risk-free, to plan ahead. Companies like Hilton and Four Seasons are allowing cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. Hyatt is allowing fee-free cancellations up to 24 hours in advance for arrivals through July 31 (and it’s always possible that date will be extended). For points nerds, most of the big hotel chains allow most award nights to be canceled scot-free, with the points redeposited, within a day or two of the expected check-in.
More complicated than physical refunds, though, is the larger, metaphysical risk: How likely is it that this trip is actually going to happen? What forces can help predict whether the Europe trips we book today will actually materialize in August and September?
France and Italy have just been locked down again, interest in Europe is rising, aided, no doubt, by signs that President Biden could lift the ban on European visitors to the United States as early as next month, news of the possibility of European health passes, rumors that Spain and Britain could both restart international tourism in mid May, and more.
At Hopper, a travel-booking app that analyzes and predicts flight and hotel prices, bookings for Europe-bound summer 2021 travel surged 68 percent week-over-week between the last week of February and the first week of March. Searches for round-trip flights to Europe departing this summer increased a whopping 86 percent in the 30 days following February 22.
According to TripAdvisor data of hotel searches from the United States for this summer, five of the 10 most-searched European destinations were in Greece, but Rome — and Paris, for that matter — were also on the list.
To make sense of how traveler zeal will jibe with the realities of the pandemic, analysts and travel industry experts are eyeing several factors, including flight schedules.
According to PlaneStats, the aviation-data portal from Oliver Wyman, an international consulting firm, the number of Europe-bound flights scheduled to depart the United States this month is around 26 percent of the number that departed the United States for Europe in April 2019. Next month compared to May 2019, that figure is looking even higher so far: 35 percent. (April and May 2020, by contrast, both clocked in at 5 percent.) That’s lower than normal, but it’s still a drastic uptick from any other point during the pandemic. Although many will be connecting flights (Americans can still transit through Europe) or culminate in destinations like London (Americans can visit England, though multiple testing and quarantines are required), schedules still remain a key indicator.
Khalid Usman, a partner and aviation expert at Oliver Wyman. “What airlines don’t want to do is put out schedules where people are not going to be traveling.”
Pandemic Navigator, which simulates day-by-day immunity growth. “That’s good news for the domestic market, but in the context of international travel, we do have to realize that it’s not just about one country — it’s a country at the other end as well.”
Factoring in the spotty vaccine rollout across the pond, Mr. Usman said it’s reasonable to assume that Europe’s herd immunity will lag several months behind the United States. Over the next several months, he added, European countries will follow in Iceland’s footsteps and open individually, complete with their own regulations about vaccinations, testing and quarantines. To spur travel across the continent this summer, the European Union is considering adopting a vaccine certificate for its own residents and their families.
“It’s not going to be a binary open-or-shut,” Mr. Usman said. “Countries are going to start getting more selective about who they’re going to start letting in.”
Italy’s numbers — plus new lockdowns and growing Covid variants — seem to be stifling optimism; Hopper flight searches from the United States to Italy have remained relatively flat.
For now, Ms. Lieberman, of Skylark, has adopted a “beyond the boot” mind-set: “Our theory is that if you’re willing to go beyond the boot — meaning, Italy — there will be fabulous, desirable summer destinations for you to take advantage of.”
Portugal surged in January but has recently eased lockdown measures as infection rates have slowed. The country is now aiming for a 70 percent vaccination rate this summer.
American interest in Portugal is spiking in response. In the first week of March, following an announcement that Portugal could welcome tourists from Britain as soon as mid-May, Hopper searches on flights from the United States to Lisbon rose 63 percent. (That’s not far behind Athens, for which travel searches shot up 75 percent in the same time period.)
will next month start nonstop service between Boston and Reykjavik — and resume its Iceland service from New York City and Minneapolis.
“Unless demand spikes rapidly enough to outpace the increase in supply, flash sales can be found as airlines attempt to entice travelers to return amid piecemeal easings of travel restrictions,” said Mr. Damodaran. Icelandair, for example, is running sales on flights and packages through April 13.
And with prices for summer flights to Europe still relatively low in general — down by more than 10 percent from 2019, according to Hopper — experts see little downside in penciling in a trip.
“If you’re willing to take some risk, plan early and lock in your preferred accommodations and ideal itineraries,” Ms. Lieberman said. “But of course we caution you to be prepared to have to move deposits and dates if it comes to that.”
As the government prepared on Thursday to start taking applications for a $16 billion relief fund for music clubs, theaters and other live event businesses, thousands of desperate applicants waited eagerly to submit their paperwork right at noon, when the system was scheduled to open.
And then they waited. And waited. Nearly four hours later, the system was still not working at all, sending applicants into spasms of anxiety.
“This is an absolute disaster,” Eric Sosa, the owner of C’mon Everybody, a club in Brooklyn, tweeted at the agency. In social media forums and Zoom calls, frustrated applicants banded together to vent and share their anger.
The Small Business Administration, which runs the initiative, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, attributed the problems to “a technical issue” that it said it was working to address.
the same thing happened again, weeks later, when a new round of funding became available.
Applicants for the grant program were incredulous that the agency was not better prepared — especially because the funds are to be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who get their applications in early have the best chance of getting aid before the money runs out.
“It pits venues against each other because we’re all mad-dashing for this,” Mr. Sosa said in an interview. “And it shouldn’t be that way. We’re all a community.”
For businesses like Crowbar, a music club in Tampa, Fla., getting a grant is a matter of survival. Tom DeGeorge, Crowbar’s primary owner, took out more than $200,000 in personal loans to keep the business afloat after it shut down last year, including one using its liquor license as collateral.
More than a year later, the club has reopened with a smattering of events at reduced capacities, but the business still operates in the red, Mr. DeGeorge said in an interview.
months of lobbying by an ad hoc coalition of music venues and other groups that warned of the loss of an entire sector of the arts economy.
For music venues in particular, the last year has been a scramble to remain afloat, with the proprietors of local clubs running crowdfunding campaigns, selling T-shirts and racking their brains for any creative way to raise funds. For the holidays, the Subterranean club in Chicago, for example, agreed to place the names of patrons on its marquee for donations of $250 or more.
“It’s been the busiest year,” Robert Gomez, the primary owner of Subterranean, said in an interview. “But it’s all been about, ‘Where am I going to get funding from?’”
sent out an alert warning of “serious concerns” with the program’s waste and fraud controls. The Small Business Administration’s current audit plan “exposes billions of dollars to potential misuse of funds,” the inspector general wrote in a report.
Successful applicants will receive a grant equal to 45 percent of their gross earned revenue from 2019, up to $10 million. Those who lost 90 percent of their revenue (compared to the prior year) after the coronavirus pandemic took hold will have a 14-day priority window for receiving the money, followed by another 14-day period for those who lost 70 percent or more. If any funds remain after that, they will then go to applicants who had a 25 percent sales loss in at least one quarter of 2020. Venues owned by large corporations, like Live Nation or AEG, are not eligible.
The application process is extensive, with detailed questions about venues’ budgets, staff and equipment.
“They want to make sure you’re not just setting up a piano in the corner of an Italian restaurant and calling yourself a music venue,” said Blayne Tucker, a lawyer for several music spaces in Texas.
many dry months before touring and live events return at anything like prepandemic levels.
The grant program also offers help for Broadway theaters, performing arts centers and even zoos, which share many of the same economic struggles.
The Pablo Center at the Confluence, in Eau Claire, Wis., for example, was able to raise about $1 million from donations and grants during the pandemic, yet is still $1.2 million short on its annual fixed operating expenses, said Jason Jon Anderson, its executive director.
“By the time we open again, October 2021 at the earliest, we will have been shuttered longer than we had been open,” he added. (The center opened in 2018, at a cost of $60 million.)
The thousands of small clubs that dot the national concert map lack access to major donors and, in many cases, have been surviving on fumes for months.
Stephen Chilton, the owner of the 300-capacity Rebel Lounge in Phoenix, said he had taken out “a few hundred thousand” in loans to keep the club afloat. In October, it reopened with a pop-up coffee shop inside, and the club hosts some events, like trivia contests and open mic shows.
“We’re losing a lot less than we were losing when we were completely closed,” Mr. Chilton said, “but it’s not making up for the lost revenue from doing events.”
The Rebel Lounge hopes that a grant will help it survive until it can bring back a full complement of concerts. And if its application is not accepted?
Before the pandemic, companies used to lure top talent with lavish perks like subsidized massages, Pilates classes and free gourmet meals. Now, the hottest enticement is permission to work not just from home, but from anywhere — even, say, from the French Alps or a Caribbean island.
Revolut, a banking start-up based in London, said Thursday that it would allow its more than 2,000 employees to work abroad for up to two months a year in response to requests to visit overseas family for longer periods.
“Our employees asked for flexibility, and that’s what we’re giving them as part of our ongoing focus on employee experience and choice,” said Jim MacDougall, Revolut’s vice president of human resources.
Georgia Pacquette-Bramble, a spokeswoman for Revolut, said she was planning to trade the winter in London for Spain or somewhere in the Caribbean. Other colleagues have talked about spending time with family abroad.
JPMorgan Chase, Salesforce, Ford Motor and Target, have said they are giving up office space as they expect workers to spend less time in the office, and Spotify has told employees they can work from anywhere.
Not all companies, however, are shifting away from the office. Tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple, have added office space in New York over the last year. Amazon told employees it would “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”
Dr. Dan Wang, an associate professor at Columbia Business School, said he did not expect office-centric companies to lose top talent to companies that allow flexible working, in part because many employees prefer to work from the office.
Furthermore, when employees are not in the same space, there are fewer spontaneous interactions, and spontaneity is critical for developing ideas and collaborating, Dr. Wang said.
“There is a cost,” he said. “Yes, we can interact via email, via Slack, via Zoom — we’ve all gotten used to that. But part of it is that we’ve lowered our expectations for what social interaction actually entails.”
Revolut said it studied tax laws and regulations before introducing its policy, and that each request to work from abroad was subject to an internal review and approval process. But for some companies looking to put a similar policy in place, a hefty tax bill, or at least a complicated tax return, could be a drawback.
Erick Williams, the executive chef and owner of Virtue, a Southern restaurant in Chicago, said his staff of 22 employees is about half the size it was before the pandemic. “People aren’t even showing up for interviews these days,” he said.
If he can’t hire more help before business increases with the growth of outdoor dining, Mr. Williams said, “all of a sudden, you got to pay more overtime, and you’re running the risk of burning out your staff.”
The tight job market has helped hasten changes that restaurant workers pushed for during the shutdowns, including higher pay and better working conditions. Ms. Button has raised wages in accordance with recommendations made by One Fair Wage, an advocacy group for service workers, and is paying $150 bonuses to employees who refer new hires who stay on the job for more than 90 days.
The starting wage for kitchen employees at Mr. Acheson’s Atlanta restaurants is $14 to $15 per hour, he said, up from $12 before the pandemic. “People will walk down the street for a buck more — and they should,” he said.
Mike Traud, the program director of the Department of Food and Hospitality Management at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, said intense competition for talent makes this an opportune time for people to break into the restaurant business. He said this is particularly true in the Northeast, where restaurants on the coast are hiring for the tourism season.
“You have more leverage,” he said, “and there are more opportunities to get into upper-level kitchens.”
Many people, though, may be reluctant to take up or return to restaurant work, given the health risks that some studies have linked to serving customers, particularly indoors. Many restaurateurs are also concerned that resuming indoor dining too quickly could cause another spike in Covid infections. (This week, the Aspen Institute’s Food and Society Program released a set of safety guidelines it developed, in partnership with other industry groups, for diners and restaurant employees to continue following.)
Roughly 17.3 percent of all office space in Manhattan is available for lease, the highest proportion in at least three decades. Asking rents on the island have dropped to just over $74 a square foot, from nearly $82 at the beginning of 2020, according to a recent report by the real estate services company Newmark. Elsewhere, asking rents have largely stayed flat from a year ago, including in Boston and Houston, but have climbed slightly in Chicago.
The Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo, whose United States headquarters are in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, recently relocated to another office building nearby, an open layout with tables designed for its work force of 130 people who will come into the office only a few days a week. Many of its office workers will keep working remotely after the pandemic, while some employees, like those in the marketing department, will hold meetings occasionally in SoHo.
“As a leader, it has been challenging because meeting people face-to-face is so important,” said Daisuke Tsukagoshi, the chief executive of Uniqlo USA. “However, since we are a Japanese company with global reach, the need for remote collaboration among many centers has always been part of our culture.”
Today in Business
The stock prices of the big landlords, which are often structured as real estate investment trusts that pass almost all of their profit to investors, trade well below their previous highs, even as the wider stock market and some companies in other industries like airlines and hotels that were hit hard by the pandemic have hit new highs. Shares of Boston Properties, one of the largest office landlords, are down 29 percent from the prepandemic high. SL Green, a major New York landlord, is 26 percent lower.
Fitch Ratings estimated that office landlords’ profits would fall 15 percent if companies allowed workers to be at home just one and a half days a week on average. Three days at home could slash income by 30 percent.
Senior executives at property companies claim not to be worried. They argue that working from home will quickly fade once most of the country is vaccinated. Their reasons to think this? They say many corporate executives have told them that it is hard to effectively get workers to collaborate or train young professionals when they are not together.
The piñata industry, dependent on social gatherings, has seen sales plummet. Some artisans, in a creative bid to survive, have added coronavirus figures to their lineups of superheros and princesses.
MEXICO CITY — The sight is jarring against the backdrop of smog and concrete that marks this part of Mexico City, a tangle of freeways and overpasses with old buses rumbling by and belching smoke.
But there, bursting like flowers amid the ashen buildings, they hang in row upon row: piñatas, painted every color, from bright fuchsia to midnight blue to Baby Yoda green. On the sidewalk, a Spiderman piñata stands beside Batman, while Mickey Mouse leans against Sonic the Hedgehog.
And included among the copyright-be-damned cartoon characters, superheros and doe-eyed Disney princesses is a more recent addition to the Mexican piñata repertoire. Painted lime-green with a gold crown, spikes erupting in all directions, the coronavirus glares at passers-by.
devastated whole communities.
“We Mexicans laugh even at death,” Mr. Mena said. “It’s become just another monster.”
Piñata makers, often close-knit families whose business depends on the social gatherings that have largely halted during the pandemic, have, like much of the country, suffered both financially and personally for the past year.
Mr. Mena said that his sales had plummeted, putting him in a dire economic situation, but that the personal losses had been even worse. Eleven members of his extended family have died of Covid-19, as well as more than two dozen others he knows of in the industry.
“It’s so hard for a lot of us,” he said. “It just never crossed your mind that there would be so many dead in so little time.”
updated its official figures, showing that the virus may have claimed more than 300,000 lives, an astonishing toll for the country of 126 million people.
The effect of the pandemic on the economy has been almost as ruinous. Last year, Mexico suffered its biggest annual economic slump since the Great Depression, and the financial fallout may push millions into poverty.
a piñata store in the city of Reynosa, near the U.S. border. He said he had gone from selling 20 to 30 piñatas a week before the pandemic, ranging from about $15 to $125 each, to just one or two some weeks.
Mr. Mena, in Mexico City, is the fourth-generation piñata maker in a family that he said had been in the business for almost a century. His great-grandparents, he said, were among the first to set up shop in this part of the capital.
“We are the piñata pioneers,” he said proudly.
Mr. Mena made his first piñata when he was just 6. On his work desk is a photo of him at 9, when he made some of his first large-scale piñatas in the shape of a seven-pointed star, a central part of Mexico’s Christmas tradition.
shut down at the end of March last year, sales dropped by 90 percent, he said. Five workers had to leave Mexico City after being furloughed.
To survive, Mr. Mena began improvising. Along with the coronavirus piñata, his shop began selling effigies of Susana Distancia, Mexico’s social-distancing superhero, as well as of Hugo López-Gatell, the country’s coronavirus czar who has been much maligned for vastly underestimating the pandemic’s toll on Mexico.
People “would beat him but because he wasn’t telling the truth,” Mr. Mena said of the López-Gatell piñata.
To boost sales, Mr. Ramírez, the shop owner in Reynosa, also decided to diversify his store’s offerings. He began learning how to bake cakes, while his sister learned how to make arrangements with balloons.
“If we don’t have work in one thing, well, let’s help by making something else,” he said.
But despite the ingenuity of these craftsmen, sales have risen little, and the Mexican government has given businesses next to nothing in terms of stimulus to get by.
Sitting between a Wonder Woman piñata and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, Mr. Mena wiped away tears as he recalled how things got so desperate last summer that his clients and neighbors began adding food parcels to their payments for piñatas to help him, his family and other piñata makers who supply his business get by.
“People already knew us, thank God, good people,” he said. “They helped us.”
The family had hoped sales would pick up around Christmas, usually the busiest season, but in mid-December, the capital entered another lockdown and the store was forced to close. Still, far from being bitter at the authorities, Mr. Mena said he understood the need to “sacrifice our earnings for the good of the people.”
The enforced slowdown brought on by the pandemic has also given him more time to appreciate the craft of creating piñatas. “We’re going to make them with more patience,” he said. “Going back to creating and teaching and feeling that love for what you do.”
In Reynosa, Mr. Ramirez, who recently became a father for the first time, is also experimenting with new types of piñatas, the inspiration for which can often be personal as well as from popular culture.
“I’m a dad, and I have a daughter, so now I have to make piñatas that are more cute,” he said.
While the present situation remains grim, Mr. Mena is feeling more optimistic about the future. With vaccines rolling out, although slowly, he believes his business, and the centuries-old industry he is so proud of, will finally start to recover.
“Like a phoenix from the ashes,” he said, “the piñata trade is starting to pull through.”
As vaccination rates increase and businesses start to reopen, cities across the country are cautiously moving forward with economic recovery plans to coax workers back into offices and revive real estate markets pummeled by the pandemic.
Some midsize cities — like Austin, Texas; Boise, Idaho; and Portland, Ore. — may be poised to rebound faster than others because they have developed strong relationships with their local economic development groups. These partnerships have established comeback plans that incorporate a number of common goals, like access to affordable loans, relief for small businesses and a focus on downtown areas.
The partnerships are also encouraging investments in infrastructure as lures for new business activity. Last Wednesday, President Biden announced a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to modernize the nation’s bridges, roads, public transportation, railways, ports and airports.
“Recovery plans create an agenda for rebuilding the metropolitan area,” said Richard Florida, professor at the University of Toronto, who helped prepare a plan for northwest Arkansas.
Google, Microsoft, Target and Twitter about remote work, and some cities could see less office construction activity.
These challenges are not limited to midsize cities. Larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and New York are certainly in distress, but they have shown the capacity in the past to rebound from calamity. In San Francisco, municipal authorities said that there was no way to predict postpandemic construction activity but that expectations were high.
“This isn’t the first recession here,” said Ted Egan, San Francisco’s chief economist. “We’re expecting people to come back to the office.”
But the cities that have a strong alliance with business development agencies are expected to recuperate faster.
For instance, the Downtown Austin Alliance, a business development group, is convening focus groups and workshops, and conducting interviews and surveys to stir fresh interest in its downtown office market. Before the pandemic, 11 buildings encompassing roughly 3.5 million square feet were under construction, nearly half of all downtown office space.
Boise established a 16-member Economic Recovery Task Force made up of city officials, academics and executives of professional organizations. In September, it issued recommendations to “enhance economic resilience and agility.”
And the Greater Portland Economic Development District formed a partnership with the Metro Regional Government to prepare a plan to recover from the economic shock of the pandemic, which wiped out 140,000 jobs and shuttered 30 percent of the region’s small businesses. Among their recommendations is todirect funds and technical assistance to small businesses through local Community Development Financial Institutions, part of an affordable-lending program from the Treasury Department.
Some cities are already seeing success. A year ago, Boston abruptly suspended construction for nine weeks in an effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus. During the moratorium, the Boston Planning and Development Agency prepared a recovery plan that focused on reviewing permit decisions for major projects remotely. With its 250-member staff working from home, and in some cases outfitted with new software and digital equipment, the planning agency held 220 virtual public meetings and digitally reviewed architectural plans and land-use proposals.
“We identified a methodology to conduct our reviews and resume public participation,” said Brian P. Golden, the agency’s director. “Honestly, it worked better than we could reasonably have expected.”
The city approved 55 significant development projects last year encompassing 15.8 million square feet and valued at $8.5 billion, the most in Boston’s history. The largest was $5 billion Suffolk Downs, a 10-million-square-foot, mixed-use development with 10,000 housing units rising on a shuttered horse-racing track.
Tucson is also intent on resuming construction. Along with identifying sites for industrial development, the Sun Corridor recovery plan calls for resuscitating the city’s downtown.
The pandemic closed 85 downtown restaurants, eliminated 10,000 travel and tourism jobs and cut revenue in the sector by $1 billion. The antidote is to persuade city and county leaders to make loans and grants available to small businesses tied to the tourism industry, the focus of commercial space in central Tucson.
Mayor Regina Romero said the city was investing $5 million — $2 million more than last year — in the city’s tourism marketing group. Tucson also distributed $9 million from the federal relief legislation passed in March 2020 in grants ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 to small businesses, many of them in tourism.
“We’re working together as a region,” Ms. Romero said. “That’s one of the most important steps that we can take for the recovery.”
In San Francisco, public officials have announced a pilot program that will provide a monthly stipend to artists. The mayor’s office recently unveiled the initiative, city payments that were approved by thearts commission, which will provide a guaranteed monthly income of $1,000 over six months to 130 eligible artists.
A similar experiment started in St. Paul, Minn., this week. There, a nonprofit organization is working with the city to disburse monthly $500 checks to 25 local artists for the next 18 months. Springboard for the Arts, the organization running the initiative, with funding from two foundations, said it hoped a successful program could change the national conversation.
And more programs, not limited to arts workers, are springing up in cities like Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta, whose leaders are part of a 41-member coalition, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. The coalition says that providing such an income will improve racial and gender equity. (New York has no such plan in the works, a spokesman for the Department of Cultural Affairs said last week.)
Interest in guaranteed income — or universal basic income — has built over the last year as a potential solution to the lopsided economic effects of the pandemic.
initiative to invest in Black children and families.
Since opening the application portal for artists on March 25, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which is administering the guaranteed income program on behalf of San Francisco, said it has received more than 1,800 responses. (The deadline for applications is April 15.)
Deborah Cullinan, the organization’s chief executive, said that if people in the arts are unstable, “to my mind, I think it means that we are not stable. An organization is only as stable as its core community.”
Cullinan said that she hoped that data from the program could be used to inform the national agenda, and that she already had interest from the federal government.
“It’s about finding new and innovative ways to address the economic insecurity of our sector,” Cullinan added.
In St. Paul, the McKnight and Bush Foundations have helped get the guaranteed-income program off the ground. Laura Zabel, Springboard’s director overseeing the project, said that the monthly payments would help artists afford food and rent. The recipients of the stipends will be chosen from a pool of previous recipients of the organization’s coronavirus emergency grants. The director added that at least 75 percent of recipients would be people of color.
At the start of the year, Shay Fan felt relief: Vaccinations were on their way. Her relief turned to joy when her parents and in-laws got their shots.
Three months later, Ms. Fan, a 36-year-old freelance marketer and writer in Los Angeles, is still waiting for hers, and that joy is gone.
“I want to be patient,” she said.
But scrolling through Instagram and seeing photos of people, she said, “in Miami with no masks spraying Champagne into another person’s mouth,” while she sits in her apartment, having not had a haircut or been to a restaurant in more than a year, has made patience hard to practice. “It’s like when every friend is getting engaged before you, and you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m happy for them, but when is it my turn?’”
For much of the pandemic, the same rules applied: Stay at home, wear a mask, wash your hands.
But now, with vaccine distribution ramping up in some areas while others face a shortage, amid a third wave of coronavirus cases, or even warnings of a fourth, the rules are diverging around the world, and even within the same country.
and 47 percent of the population has had at least one vaccine dose. In New York, where at least 34 percent of people in the state have had at least one vaccine dose, there is talk about life feeling almost normal.
However, France, where only 14 percent of the population has received at least one vaccine dose, just entered its third lockdown. And Brazil, which has given at least one dose to 8 percent of the population, is reporting some of the world’s highest numbers of new cases and deaths per day. There are dozens of countries — including Japan, Afghanistan, Kenya, the Philippines — that have given only a single dose to less than 2 percent of their populations.
or racial lines. Older people, who make up the majority of those vaccinated, have been dining indoors, hugging grandchildren and throwing parties, while many younger people are still ineligible or repeatedly finding the “no appointments” message when they have tried to book.
Dr. Lynn Bufka, a psychologist and senior director at the American Psychological Association, said the pandemic has weighed heavily on teenagers, and a long wait for vaccines to be distributed to them could add to the stress.
“Children are in many ways those individuals whose lives have been disrupted as much as anyone but with less life experience on how to adapt to these kinds of disruptions,” Dr. Bufka said.
For American adults, at least, the fear of missing out should not last for much longer. President Biden has promised enough doses by the end of next month to immunize all of the nation’s roughly 260 million adults. In fact, the pace of vaccinations is quickening to such an extent that Biden administration officials anticipate the supply of coronavirus vaccines to outstrip demand by the middle of next month if not sooner.
Ms. Fan, the freelance writer and marketer in Los Angeles, will be eligible to book a vaccine appointment in mid-April. She does not plan to do anything wild — the basics are what she is looking forward to most. “I just need a haircut,” she said.