Grocery shortages deepen… Train workers threaten to strike amid supply chain crunch… Omicron surge pressures U.S. hospitals

(Reuters) – High demand for groceries combined with soaring freight costs and Omicron-related labor shortages are creating a new round of backlogs at processed food and fresh produce companies, leading to empty supermarket shelves at major retailers across the United States.

Growers of perishable produce across the West Coast are paying nearly triple pre-pandemic trucking rates to ship things like lettuce and berries before they spoil. Shay Myers, CEO of Owyhee Produce, which grows onions, watermelons and asparagus along the border of Idaho and Oregon, said he has been holding off shipping onions to retail distributors until freight costs go down.

Train workers may move to strike after BNSF issued a new attendance policy, which union leaders called “the worst and most egregious attendance policy ever adopted by any rail carrier.” If the strike proceeds it could be devastating to an already troubled supply chain in America.Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation (SMART-TD) who work for the BNSF Railway took steps on Wednesday that could lead to a strike in light of this new policy.BLET National President Dennis Pierce and SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said the new “Hi-Viz” program, which would go into effect on Feb. 1 is overly restrictive and is similar to precision scheduled railroading practices.According to a statement released Thursday from the unions, BNSF’s Hi-Viz attendance program “…repudiates numerous collectively bargained agreements currently in place throughout the BNSF system.“The unions describe the policy as a points-based system that penalizes employees for “…any t …

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Americans shouldn’t expect the Omicron variant to peak nationwide in coming days, the U.S. surgeon general warned Sunday, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise and put more pressure on hospitals.

“The next few weeks will be tough,” Dr. Vivek Murthy said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The seven-day average for confirmed and suspected Covid-19 hospitalizations is at the highest recorded level, with about 155,958 reported Sunday, after topping old records last week, data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services show. The seven-day average for newly reported cases also reached nearly 808,000 a day on Saturday, the first time it has topped 800,000, data from Johns Hopkins University show.

The latest data are inflated by a surge in Texas cases reported at the same time after the state cleaned up and added to its 2020 case total. At the same time, the rise in at-home testing that is often not captured in state data reports has added to an incomplete picture of the true level of infections, health and data experts said.


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