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COVID-19

A customs broker battles the effects of COVID-19

Bennett Purser Feb 24, 2020
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A deserted street in Shanghai on Feb. 6. Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

A customs broker battles the effects of COVID-19

Bennett Purser Feb 24, 2020
A deserted street in Shanghai on Feb. 6. Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Nearly three months since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China, the infection rate of the disease caused by coronavirus continues to climb around the world. Quarantine efforts have temporarily halted much of Chinese economy, causing cities like Shanghai to look like a ghost town during the Lunar New Year holiday. While workers are slowly going back to work, the impact of COVID-19 is being felt across the global economy.

Gretchen Blough

The outbreak has left many American businesses that depend on China’s manufacturing helpless. More than 200,000 flights to and from the country have been canceled. The outbreak and related shipping restrictions come after many of the same companies spent years grappling with effects the U.S.-China trade war, with costly tariffs imposed on Chinese imports.

Gretchen Blough, a licensed customs broker for Logistics Plus Inc. in Erie, Pennsylvania, spoke with us about the challenges the disease has put on her customers hoping to get their goods into the United States. 

“It just seems like the trade war was bad enough, but it really didn’t have this kind of impact on the shipping,” Blough said. “People still didn’t have options sometimes of sourcing from any other place but China. And now everything is screeched to a halt out of China.”

Click the audio player above to hear the story.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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