The stock market continued its consistent decline on Thursday morning, with market participants seemingly dissatisfied with the measures taken thus far by federal government officials to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. Circuit breakers once again triggered shortly after the open when the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) dropped 7% on the day, and major market benchmarks have remained around those levels since reopening. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 1,823 points to 21,729. The S&P 500 fell 179 points to 2,562, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) lost 442 points to 7,510.
Major businesses have looked for ways to fight the coronavirus and its impact on their workforce, and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) announced some new measures late yesterday to try to give its employees some reassurance. For Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), though, the news wasn't as good, as the airline stock plummeted again on news that travel would halt between the U.S. and Europe.
What Amazon's doing for workers
Shares of Amazon weren't able to avoid the day's downdraft, falling 5% Thursday morning. The e-commerce giant has had a bad reputation in many circles on how it treats its employees, but it took steps to try to combat that perception in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Amazon HR senior vice president Beth Galetti announced in a blog post late yesterday that the company would take a couple of key measures to help its workforce. First, Amazon said that it would pay employees up to two weeks of pay if they were diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed into quarantine. The extra pay would apply both to full-time and to part-time employees, and it would supplement the unlimited unpaid time off that Amazon has offered to hourly employees through the end of this month.
In addition, Amazon contributed $25 million toward what it's calling the Amazon Relief Fund. The goal of the fund is to support independent delivery companies and drivers, as well as seasonal employees and participants in the Amazon Flex delivery service. If those workers are diagnosed with or quarantined for COVID-19, they can apply for grants from the fund to receive two weeks of pay. The relief fund will also provide anywhere from $400 to $5,000 in the event of a natural disaster, federal emergency declaration, or personal hardship.
Amazon still faces controversy with some of its work practices. But at least in the wake of the coronavirus, the company is taking steps to keep employees more financially secure.
Delta joins the airline rout
Meanwhile, shares of Delta Air Lines were down 12%. The entire airline industry suffered another blow last night on news that the U.S. would institute a travel ban preventing visitors from Europe from coming into the country.
In an address Wednesday night, President Trump said, "To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days." The rules, which go into effect on Friday at midnight, are subject to future adjustment as conditions warrant. The address criticized the European Union, claiming that EU measures failed to stem the spread of the coronavirus from China.
Thursday morning, the White House tried to clarify a few points, making it clear that U.K. travel was unaffected and that U.S. citizens and permanent residents would be able to come back from Europe. However, the impact will still be severe on Delta, which does a considerable amount of transatlantic business and is now looking at even more capacity reductions.
Some argue that airline stocks have now fallen enough to make them enticing takeover targets for potential acquirers like Warren Buffett. There's still considerable uncertainty about how Delta and its peers will weather the COVID-19 outbreak -- and whether travelers will return to the skies even if the disease runs its course relatively quickly.