WASHINGTON — It's now a matter of how and when and not if.
As countries around the world work, to varying degrees, to contain COVID-19, aka "coronavirus disease 2019," the spread of the illness will impact how the world conducts business.
"The impact on all of this is probably not going to hit the market in the next couple of months. It's not going to be immediate," said Aaron Lowe, vice president of regulatory and government affairs for the Auto Care Association (ACA), who represents businesses that provide aftermarket products and services, including tires and installation, to motor vehicles.
Businesses around the world, each year, prepare for the annual closure of Chinese manufacturing for a week in celebration of that's country's new year. But COVID-19 further disrupted business as the government ordered shutdowns and quarantines to limit spread of the virus.
This unexpected extension of supply chain disruption, Mr. Lowe said, will start to be felt in the U.S. as time passes.
"Eventually, down the road, there's going to be an impact. Because once the factories do start putting out products again, the shipping is going to be an issue," he said, adding there is only so much capacity to move goods.
"That will take time to play itself out," Mr. Lowe said. "It will eventually filter through the system."
"A lot of companies had stocked up for the Chinese New Year knowing there was going to be a downtime. There was a plan at that point. But, of course, it's a much longer and much more intensive impact," he said.
And while the initial concern about the virus centered in China, the illness is starting to have major impacts elsewhere around the world. That's particularly true in Italy where the northern portion of the country, including millions of people, now is under quarantine.
That area includes Milan, in the Lombardy region, where tire maker Pirelli & C. S.p.A. is headquartered. The company has scaled back production at its tire plant in Settimo Torinese, Italy, as it works to disinfect the facility after a confirmed case of COVID-19 at the site.
It's now been months since the health crisis emerged from Wuhan, China, first gripping a large swath of that country, before moving overseas and creating what the World Health Organization has deemed a pandemic. Although, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, the risk is still low in the U.S., despite the report of cases in several states.
Doing business is this atmosphere of uncertainty is fraught with uncertainty as managers try to strike a balance between being prudent and too cautious. Many in the U.S. still live far from the limited outbreaks in this country, but health experts warn the virus certainly is going to spread.