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    Home / College Guide / Manufacturers hampered by latest case surge
     Posted on Friday, January 14 @ 00:00:05 PST

    Workforce and supply chain issues plaguing Oklahoma businesses since COVID-19 infections began 22 months ago are surging along with the fast-spreading omicron variant. “Manpower is the most significant issue right now. It’s very severe at this point,” Joe Epperley, communications director with 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 75% of his workforce was out one day this week. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the largest single-day number of new cases Thursday – 10,502 – bringing the seven-day average to 7,788, the highest since the pandemic began. “A significant percentage of manufacturers are having a hard time maintaining a minimal amount of production,” Epperley said. “Supply chains were recovering but with the new surge it certainly puts a kink in it.” Supply chain glitches are a weekly occurrence for Clubhouse Trailer Co., which custom-builds marching band trailers for high schools, colleges and summer drum crops. “Out of 1,300 inventory items there’s always one that’s stuck on a boat somewhere or in a delayed delivery,” co-owner Drew Taylor said.

    A ball bearing needed to manufacture electric actuators currently is delayed 16 to 17 weeks due to a global tungsten shortage, Taylor said. “It’s always the smallest piece that holds things up.” The company has a nine-person workforce in a 22,000-square-foot facility in Edmond. Taylor said no one has tested positive for COVID-19 so far but the pandemic has affected delivery of completed trailers. With customers in 17 states – soon to be 21 – locations experiencing an extended school closure can delay delivery. At one point, Clubhouse Trailers had 12 finished trailers on site that couldn’t be delivered, Taylor said. The Associated Press reports shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown more acute in recent weeks as new problems — like the fast-spreading omicron variant and severe weather — have piled on to the supply chain struggles and labor shortages that have plagued retailers since the coronavirus pandemic began. Part of the scarcity consumers are seeing on store shelves is due to the pandemic trend of Americans eating at home more than they used to, which is exacerbated by omicron. A deficit of truck drivers that started building before the pandemic also remains a problem.

    The American Trucking Associations said in October that the U.S. was short an estimated 80,000 drivers, a historic high. The current COVID surge in Oklahoma is affecting a variety of businesses, schools and hospitals. A downtown Edmond diner had customers at only one table at lunchtime Thursday. The server expressed concern about another possible shutdown. By Thursday afternoon, hundreds of school districts across Oklahoma had announced closures or a move to online learning because they don’t have enough teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and other staff to keep the doors open. The number of patients with COVID-19 in Oklahoma hospitals jumped from 1,288 Wednesday to 1,361 Thursday, according the OSDH. Of those, 302 were in intensive care units. The growing number is stressing hospital resources and staffing, said Dr. Dale Bratzler, OU Health chief quality officer. Many people go to the hospital for reasons other than severe COVID infection and test positive once they are there, he said. “They have to be isolated. We have to protect our other patients and we have to protect our workers,” Bratzler said. “Even if they’re not here for COVID they still take a lot of resources to take care of them when they test positive.

    ” Hospital administrators are urging people who are eligible for a booster vaccine to get it. The Commonwealth Fund released a study this week that estimates doubling the number of Americans who have received the booster could prevent 41,000 deaths and 400,000 infections by May. 1 of 1 article 0 articles remaining Advance your business edge with news from The Journal Record. Register now for more article access.

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