COVID-19

Caught in the crosshairs of a trade war and a pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Dec 10, 2020
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Lydia Clarke owns DTLA Cheese at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Courtesy of Lydia Clarke
COVID-19

Caught in the crosshairs of a trade war and a pandemic

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Dec 10, 2020
Heard on:
Lydia Clarke owns DTLA Cheese at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles. Courtesy of Lydia Clarke
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Lydia Clarke opened her second cheese shop, DTLA Cheese, in Grand Central Market in 2013. As a cheesemonger, Clarke said she is naturally interested in stories, but she also really loves cheese. What attracted her the most to the downtown Los Angeles landmark was its 100-year history.

“When I walk in here, there’s a pride of the steps because somebody has worked here for over 100 years,” said Clarke. “The history that’s in this building has just so dramatically changed since March.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Clarke said she sees about one-tenth of the customer base she had before March. Her business is not doing well.

“If things go how they are this week, we could make payroll, and then that’s probably it,” said Clarke.

Late last year, some of her cheeses were hit with the Trump administration’s 25% tariff on imported goods, and she had to raise prices a bit. But the coronavirus pandemic has made things much more difficult.

“It’s this weird fog of like, no, this will be OK. We will be OK. But the reality is like, no, it’s bad,” said Clarke.

She’s made many changes to her shop, which she co-owns with her sister. With COVID-19 safety measures, Clarke can no longer offer cheese tastings from behind the counter. There is no more downtown LA lunch rush, and she’s had to lay off half her already small staff.

“It’s not just small, it’s micro,” said Clarke.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy continues reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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