If students don't return to campuses in the fall because of Covid-19, families won't visit and patronize hotels, restaurants and shops. If the fall football season is canceled or played with curtailed seating, fans won't be arriving by the thousands and spending by the millions.
Small businesses in towns like Easton, Pennsylvania, the home of Lafayette College, rely not only on a steady revenue stream from students and college employees, but also on frequent floods of visitors attending games and events.
That all dried up in March, when Lafayette and most other U.S. colleges sent students home and canceled sports for the remainder of the school year to limit contagion of the novel coronavirus.
"We're really in a fragile place," said Jonathan Davis, a Lafayette alumnus and co-owner of Pearly Baker's Alehouse and other local businesses. "There are so many instances where things can go awry."