Several local and state elected officials have expressed concern that high positivity rates of COVID-19 at the San Pedro Bay Ports will affect the hub’s ability to keep up with demand amid the pandemic, and an International Longshore and Warehouse Union official said Tuesday that workers should be given vaccine priority.

The test positivity rate for COVID-19 is 65% at the Port of Los Angeles and 71% at the Port of Long Beach, according to a letter sent to California Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer from U.S. Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-Los Angeles, and Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, on Jan. 15.

“Without immediate action, terminals at the largest port complex in America may face the very real danger of terminal shutdowns,” the representatives said. “This would be disastrous not only for the communities of the South Bay, but also the entire nation which relies upon the vital flow of goods through these ports.”

About 2,000 longshore workers are not able to work due to illness or exposure to COVID, the representatives said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Sen. Lena Gonzalez, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, Rep. Alan Lowenthal, Los Angeles Councilmember Joe Buscaino, and Long Beach Councilmember Cindy Allen penned a letter to Dr. Mark Ghaly and State Epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan on Jan. 12 that said:

“As we continue to weather the current COVID-19 surge, especially in Southern California, port workers contracting COVID-19 could have disastrous consequences for the movement of goods, food, and medical supplies that Californians are depending upon in this time of crisis. This includes especially critical pandemic response goods such a personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizer, medical equipment, and more. Moreover, emergency regulations recently promulgated by California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board could further exacerbate constraints on critical supply chains if workers fall ill by requiring continuous testing of all employees and taking exposed individuals out of the workforce.”

Longshore workers have been working throughout the pandemic and contracting COVID-19 “at increasingly high rates,” according to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The National Association of Waterfront Employers sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom in December raising the alarm about consequences of sick longshore workers.

They added that longshore workers are often overlooked until the problem affects supply chain and economies are impacted.

Frank Ponce De Leon, Coast Committeeman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Coast Longshore Division said the union’s workers should be vaccinated early.

“Giving vaccine priority to longshore workers benefits not only the men and women who have been working on the docks through the pandemic, but also the millions of Americans who rely on our workforce being healthy enough to unload lifesaving medical supplies and move the cargo necessary to keep our economy going,” he said.

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