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Americans Have No Idea What the Supply Chain Really Is

The Atlantic: “Behind shipping delays and soaring prices are workers still at mortal risk of COVID-19…Overseas shipping is currently slow and expensive for lots of very complicated reasons and one big, important, relatively uncomplicated one: The countries trying to meet the huge demands of wealthy markets such as the United States are also trying to prevent mass-casualty events. Infection-prevention measures have recently closed high-volume shipping ports in China, the country that supplies the largest share of goods imported to the United States. In Vietnam and Malaysia, where workers churn out products as varied as a third of all shoes imported to the U.S. and chip components that are crucial to auto manufacturing, controlling the far more transmissible Delta variant has meant sharply decreasing manufacturing capacity and reducing manpower at busy container ports. (Vietnam has fully vaccinated a single-digit percentage of its population, while Malaysia is beginning to recover from its own massive Delta spike, in spite of good vaccination rates.) These problems are exacerbated, Hearsch said, by the near-total evaporation of maritime shipping’s quickest alternative: stowing shipments of goods in the bellies of commercial passenger jets already flying between Asia and the United States, which have been making far fewer trips during the pandemic…”

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