Northeast Ohio is careening into the holidays stressed.
Prices are rising, employers can’t find workers and people are frustrated that they sometimes can’t buy what they want when they want it.
As the pandemic approaches its third year — threatening anew with the omicron variant — COVID-19 is upending our lives and lifestyles in new ways.
Last year, there was a pandemic-induced economic downturn as many people hunkered down at home, eschewing goods and services.
Now, with vaccines, the problem has flipped. More Americans are venturing out to eat, to travel and to buy, buy, buy. And restaurants, stores, service providers and supply chains can’t keep up.
Economists generally don’t know how long this phenomenon may last. Some say less than a year; others say longer.
Impacting Ohio: How pandemic shortages are impacting your life in Northeast Ohio
We wanted to see how these shortages and price hikes are impacting our area now.
On Nov. 18, the Akron Beacon Journal, The Canton Repository, The Daily Record and the Record-Courier sent 18 reporters, five photographers and one editor out to interview everyone from car shoppers and staffing agencies to a dairy farmer and a pediatric nurse.
Here is what they found as that chilly, rainy Thursday unfolded:
The wheels on the bus
Bill Andexler’s phone rings before sun-up. It’s a school bus driver who tells him she has car trouble.
“Where are you at?” asks Andexler, the transportation coordinator for Akron Public Schools. “Do you want us to send someone down for you or are you calling off?”
Andexler has eight substitute drivers on his roster today, and all but one are filling spots for people who have already called off. He’s holding onto that substitute by splitting the students on another driverless bus between two other routes.
‘We need you’: Area school districts desperately seeking staff as shortages force closure
Now hiring bus drivers: Shortage forces districts to suspend busing, adjust routes
Andexler tells the bus driver with car trouble that he thinks he can make the morning work without her.
“Let us know about this afternoon,” he tells her.
Andexler hangs up.
“We’re kind of stretched pretty thin,” he says.
Andexler’s work days usually start about 2 a.m. He checks emails, making sure he has an accurate headcount of school bus and van drivers for the day.
Then he spends his morning hoping his phone doesn’t ring. When it does, it usually means someone’s not coming to work.
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