The toll of COVID-19 on the health side of things has been endlessly covered, and intimately experienced by the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost loved ones to the virus. Thankfully, the Delta variant that has become the basis of so much
The toll of COVID-19 on the health side of things has been endlessly covered, and intimately experienced by the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have lost loved ones to the virus.
Thankfully, the Delta variant that has become the basis of so much fear regarding a brutal resurgence of the virus throughout the past couple of months has slowed its progression, and infection rates have declined in recent weeks.
However, the economic side of COVID’s impact – compounded by global staffing, supply, and energy shortages – have set the stage for an impending crisis that will affect consumers in Rhode Island, the United States and countries across the world. A crucial pillar of the problem lies in a mass shortage of large storage containers used in shipping, created by a sudden boom in production demands following the hibernation that many industries entered throughout the most dire days of the pandemic, which has stalled the shipping industry and created long wait times to import and export goods from ports around the nation.
But goods and services are being disrupted before they can even get in line to be shipped, too. Farmers in the Midwest are unable to procure essential pieces of machinery – whether brand new harvesters or simply parts to repair their aging machines that are breaking down – due to semiconductor production interruptions in factories overseas. An energy crisis in China has also halted or severely hampered the production of nitrogen fertilizers, among many other consumer goods. The result is likely to be a scarcity of things – from the seemingly frivolous such as holiday decorations and athletic-wear to more essential food products – in the coming months, especially items that require a large amount of energy to produce, such as meat from livestock and any crop that requires significant amounts of fertilizer to germinate and grow.
A natural gas shortage happening concurrent with these issues is also driving up the price of oil and could possibly result in shortages throughout the most crucial winter months.
On an even more molecular level, manufacturing plants are finding it more and more difficult to staff their factories with laborers. Some of this can be tracked directly to workers being more willing to go without work rather than receive a COVID-19 vaccination – yet another impact of a global problem related to vaccine hesitancy spurred by rampant misinformation that has no easy answer.
The result of all of these disruptions, simultaneously independent of one another but also inextricably linked to one another through the complexities of the global supply chain, will be higher prices for consumers and a scarcity of necessary goods throughout the coming months, all happening at a time where wages remain stagnant and an historically high number of people are unable to find adequate work.
The strength of our modern supply chain and economies are being tested as never before, and it will take a Herculean effort on behalf of elected officials to grapple with the real consequences that these problems will create.
But to a more cogent degree, these challenges will test the people within our country and our state. Existing tensions within our society will likely be exacerbated if food scarcity becomes an ongoing problem. These problems and potential solutions are out of the hands of everyday citizens, but we all have a responsibility to try and weather the storm together, lending a hand when possible, to see through these continuing challenges and come through to the other side.
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