On Jan. 20, the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 700 longshoreworkers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach had been infected with Novel Coronavirus, and hundreds more were on furloughed and quarantined, potentially causing a serious slowdown in the ports’ multibillion-dollar logistics economies. The port has appealed to vaccinate 15,000 dockworkers as soon as possible.
As the virus spreads, the rate of infection among dockworkers is rising. On the other hand, the outbreak has also led to a surge in imports of common goods, and the ports are now in chaos. Port executives, union leaders and elected officials are waging an emergency campaign to vaccinate dockworkers as soon as possible, fearing a labor shortage could force terminals to close.
Eugene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said 1,800 workers were currently out of work because of the new cap, including those who were sick, quarantined, awaiting testing and others who were afraid. In addition, some employees continue to work even when they are ill.
The whole of Southern California is under threat from the virus, as businesses and warehouses struggle to survive under a wobbly health ban. As the outbreak worsens, it becomes more difficult to contain the virus, especially in specialized jobs such as health care, dockworkers and supermarket workers.
Container throughput at the Port of Los Angeles fell nearly 19 percent in the first few months of the outbreak. But in the second half of 2020, container throughput increased by nearly 50%. This has led to a backlog of goods at ports, a surge in the number of containers and a shortage of staff at terminals. As of January 19th, 45 ships were docked outside the two ports waiting to unload, the most unusual months-long delay in six years.
“There is a very real danger that if immediate action is not taken, the nation’s largest ports could be shut down,” Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan and Alan Lowenthal wrote in a Jan. 15 letter to California and Los Angeles County health officials. And it’s not just devastating for the Southern California community, the whole country is dependent on the flow of goods from the ports.”
The two lawmakers said the ports are a critical infrastructure for the nation and a vital logistics route for anti-epidemic medical supplies. Imports of anti-epidemic equipment from Asia, including face masks, disinfectants and respirators, enter the United States through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.