Coronavirus potential impact on international student workers


MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW)- In 2018, more than 3,000 international students came to our area to work during the summer through the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Visa program.

Some of the top countries they come from have confirmed coronavirus cases which could impact the summer workforce.

Seventy-five percent of the lifeguards Lack’s Beach Services hires for the summer are J-1 students, mostly from European countries. They’re keeping tabs on the spread of the coronavirus.

“It would definitely impact us and alot of others because this whole area relies heavily on J-1’s over the summer,” said Holly Robinson, the HR manager and recruiting officer for Lack’s Beach Services.

J-1 students are going through the application process now.

The Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association said J-1 students do everything from being a lifeguard to working nearly every position in the hospitality and food service industries during our peak tourism season.

Out of the top 12 countries they come from to our area, six of those have confirmed coronavirus cases according to the CDC. Five percent of the students that come here are from China, the epicenter of the virus.

“We do get students from so many different countries we’re hoping that if that happens we’ll still be able to make things work,” said Robinson.

The President and CEO of Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association said they are keeping in contact with the U.S. Department of State and sponsors that recruit students. He expects a possible shift of where the students come from.

“What you might see is more of Russian, or more Jamaican, or you might see more from Poland or Ireland. What we’re hearing from them is they’re just making adjustments as they are going out and recruiting these applicants,” said Stephen Greene, The President and CEO of Myrtle Beach Area Hospitality Association.

The U.S. Department of State sent News 13 a statement saying, “We are working with our interagency partners to protect U.S. citizens at home and abroad from the spread of the virus, including appropriate monitoring or quarantines by health authorities and through travel restrictions on at-risk individuals where appropriate.”

“It’s kind of like the scenario of a hurricane or any other natural disasters you prepare, but hope it doesn’t happen to you,” said Greene.

Karen Riordan, President and CEO of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce said in a statement:

“We appreciate the aggressive response to coronavirus by the U.S. government, and we are hopeful that the collective effort will continue to keep the risk of coronavirus in the U.S. to a minimum. We are in close communication with our partners at local, state and national levels and are monitoring the situation closely. The CDC has been clear on the fact that this is an evolving situation. And it is too early to speculate on potential impacts on our community and our local tourism industry. At this time, travel within the country has not been limited, and there is no indication that travel plans should be altered for any public health reason.”

Riordan doesn’t expect a major impact on the number of visitors to the Grand Strand as a majority are domestic travelers. She said during 2019’s 3rd quarter, 1.7% of visitors were from outside the U.S. with 90 percent of those from Canada.

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