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Businesses brace for economic impact

Responding to the rising COVID-19 threat in Kentucky, businesses imposed new restrictions on employees and raced to take more measures to head off the risks.

As the new coronavirus spreads across the U.S., into Kentucky and neighboring states, companies have scrambled to protect employees by canceling travel to conferences and other work sites. In hundreds of workplaces, some employees were ordered to work from home.

UPS and Kentucky’s largest automotive manufacturers, Ford and Toyota, said Monday they are asking workers who must be at work to heed precautions by using hand sanitizers and washing hands frequently.

The virus has slammed world economies, with U.S. markets plummeting again Monday after a brutal last week, when four days of losses rivaled the 2008 financial crisis.

“It just feels like 9/11 right now,” said Dan Hartlage, principal at Guthrie/Mayes Public Relations in Louisville.

Hartlage was set to travel to Boulder, Colorado, this week to lead a media training session with the leaders of a company due to debut a film at South by Southwest, the massive tech and music festival in Austin, Texas. But that festival was canceled on Friday when major sponsors bailed because of the virus risks.

A trader passes a hand sanitizing station on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell noted that the coronavirus "poses evolving risks to economic activity." (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The Colorado client’s cancellation was followed by another in Los Angeles 18 hours later. The California company had lined up Hartlage to provide training in dealing with the media for March 16. But it was nixed because employees were ordered to work remotely for now.

The company didn’t want to risk infecting employees who would have to return to the office for something non-essential, Hartlage said.

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