Labor and supply chain issues that have plagued Oklahoma businesses since COVID-19 infections began 22 months ago are increasing with the fast-spreading omicron variant.
“Labour is the biggest issue right now. It’s very serious at this point,” Joe Epperley, director of communications for the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, said Thursday. “It’s been a problem since 2020, but now it’s even worse with the omicron surge.”
The owner of a medium-sized manufacturing company told Epperley that 75% of his workforce was away on a day this week.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the highest single-day number of new cases on Thursday – 10,502 – bringing the seven-day average to 7,788, the highest since the pandemic began.
“A significant percentage of manufacturers are struggling to maintain a minimum production quantity,” Epperley said. “Supply chains were recovering, but with the new push, that’s definitely putting a bent.”
Supply chain issues happen every week for Clubhouse Trailer Co., which custom builds marching band trailers for high schools, colleges and summer drum farms.
“Out of 1,300 items in stock, there’s always one stuck somewhere on a boat or in a delayed delivery,” co-owner Drew Taylor said.
A ball bearing needed to make electric actuators is currently delayed 16 to 17 weeks due to a global shortage of tungsten, Taylor said. “It’s always the smallest piece that holds things together.”
The company employs nine people in a 22,000 square foot factory in Edmond. Taylor said no one has tested positive for COVID-19 so far, but the pandemic has affected the delivery of completed trailers.
With customers in 17 states — soon to be 21 — locations facing extended school closures may delay delivery. At one point, Clubhouse Trailers had 12 finished trailers on site that couldn’t be delivered, Taylor said.
The Associated Press reports that shortages at U.S. grocery stores have worsened in recent weeks as new issues — like the fast-spreading omicron variant and inclement weather — piled on supply chain difficulties and shortages. of labor that have plagued retailers since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Some of the scarcity consumers are seeing on store shelves is due to the pandemic trend of Americans eating more at home than before, which is exacerbated by the omicron.
A trucking deficit that began to widen before the pandemic also remains a problem. The American Trucking Associations said in October that the United States was short about 80,000 drivers, an all-time high.
The current COVID outbreak in Oklahoma is affecting a variety of businesses, schools, and hospitals.
A restaurant in downtown Edmond had customers at a single table Thursday lunchtime. The server expressed concern about another possible shutdown.
As of Thursday afternoon, hundreds of Oklahoma school districts had announced closures or a shift to online learning because they didn’t have enough teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and staff. other staff to keep the doors open.
The number of COVID-19 patients in Oklahoma hospitals rose from 1,288 on Wednesday to 1,361 on Thursday, according to the OSDH. Among them, 302 were in intensive care units.
The growing number is putting a strain on hospital resources and staff, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, director of quality at OU Health.
Many people go to the hospital for reasons other than a serious COVID infection and test positive once there, he said.
“They need to be isolated. We have to protect our other patients and we have to protect our workers,” Bratzler said. “Even though they’re not there for COVID, they still take a lot of resources to take care of themselves when they test positive.”
Hospital administrators are urging people eligible for a booster shot to get it.
The Commonwealth Fund released a study this week that estimates that doubling the number of Americans who received the booster could prevent 41,000 deaths and 400,000 infections by May.