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COVID-19

What the new coronavirus means for America’s busiest port complex

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal Mar 5, 2020
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The Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest container port, in November 2019. Mario Tama/Getty Images
COVID-19

What the new coronavirus means for America’s busiest port complex

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal Mar 5, 2020
The Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest container port, in November 2019. Mario Tama/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Volume at the Port of Los Angeles was down 25% in February compared with last year, largely because of the new coronavirus. Also known as America’s Port, the Port of Los Angeles handles more of the world’s cargo than any other port in the Western Hemisphere. “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with the port’s executive director Gene Seroka about the slowdown.

Seroka said he expects business to be down 15% for the first quarter of this year, because of both trade policy and COVID-19.

“We’ve had 41 vessel cancellations from the middle of February through April 1,” Seroka said. “That would amount to about 25% of our normal ship calls. Today in port we have four vessels, when we normally would have 10 to 12.”

The decreased volume is having an impact on workers. Seroka said his dock workers are not out in full force, and that people who are still working have much less to do than usual.

Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

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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