MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Global concern is increasing over the Coronavirus, which started in China and has quickly spread. NBC News reports 6,000 people have been sickened so far and 132 have died.
A plane carrying 201 American evacuees from a Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak landed in southern California Wednesday. The federal government chartered the plane to evacuate diplomats from the U.S. Consulate in Wuhan, along with other Americans. CDC workers screened the group in Anchorage, Alaska during a re-fueling stop. They will undergo more health screenings in California.
There are new fears that Coronavirus could spark a global economic slowdown, and economic development officials in Memphis warn that the Mid-South would feel those impacts.
“We are very much a community tied to the international marketplace,” said Reid Dulberger, President and CEO of Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE) for Memphis & Shelby COunty.
Dulberger also serves as Chief Economic Development Officer for both the city of Memphis and Shelby County Government. Dulberger and his staff are keeping tabs on Coronavirus, because Memphis has a lot at stake.
The Bluff City is a major distribution point for truck traffic, rail, and air freight both nationwide and globally.
“If the Coronavirus causes a major disruption of international trade, FedEx is going to feel it. The railroad is going to feel it, the trucking company and warehouses. It will have a ripple effect across our community,” he said.
FedEx’s operations in China serve five airports, and the Memphis-based shipper has 9,500 employees in China, with many more in its regional Asia Pacific network.
The company in statements Wednesday said it was adhering to regulations from Chinese authorities related to containment of the coronavirus with respect to shipping and providing masks and other disinfecting equipment to employees in areas where outbreaks took place. FedEx also announced earlier this week it was sending 200,000 masks and other personal protective equipment to China.
Dulberger said Memphis has seen freight slowdowns as a result of recent international events like Brexit or the imposition of tariffs. This likely would be similar, though short-lived, he said.
“We are monitoring it very closely,” Dulberger said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to meet Thursday to decide if the spread of the virus will be considered a global emergency.