Area businesses talk staffing, supply shortages amid Omicron surge

Businesses say since the Omicron variant became widespread, staffing and supply shortages have only worsened.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Since the beginning of the pandemic, supply chain and labor shortages have been prevalent around the country. However, with the Omicron variant’s surge, area stores say it’s been even harder to keep the shelves stocked.

“It’s a perfect storm really, of people being out of the workforce, transportation issues, production issues, and packaging issues,” said Critchfield’s manager Jerry Cinnamon.

According to Cinnamon and others, labor shortages are one of the biggest issues businesses are facing, either due to the generally lower workforce numbers or illness.

“With the omicron variant surging, that’s the main issue, it’s just people…we’re trying our best to keep them well, giving each staff member an N-95 mask, but you know, Omicron and the transmissibility… it’s just tough keeping people healthy,” said Good Foods Co-Op Marketing Manager Lauren Gawthrop.

Cinnamon says it’s not just the employees themselves getting sick, but also family members, preventing employees from coming into work.

“Luckily, we’ve got a lot of great people that work twice as hard. But we do what we can. Everybody’s getting sick, and it’s not just COVID, everybody’s hanging out. Mothers are staying home because of their kids. They can’t come to work because their children are sick,” said Cinnamon.

Pharmacist Clarence Sullivan, owner of The Pharmacy Shop in Lexington, says he’s never seen supply shortages like this in his 39-year career.

“It’s just really frustrating when we need things and can’t get them,” said Sullivan.

He says while his store is staffed with people, it’s his distributor that’s having labor issues, causing his pharmacy to be low on its sometimes life-saving supplies.

“They are having difficulty in manpower to even pick the orders that we send…they delay picking some of the over-the-counter items so that we get the prescription items,” said Sullivan.

Deliveries are also slower due to truck driver staffing issues.

“You will see where a delivery truck was running late. Having truck drivers is a huge deal,” said Gawthrop.

This issue makes basic items, once easy to find, rare commodities: Cinnamon says cream cheese is among the more difficult items to find.

“It’s everything. All the big names across the board, whether it’s Smucker’s, whether it’s Dole, or Philadelphia cream cheese. There’s just none out there,” said Cinnamon.

However, Cinnamon says that it’s not a matter of food being scarce.

“The food’s out there. It’s the factories that make the packaging, and then the trucks can’t bring it to the warehouses, and then there’s nobody in the warehouses to work to get it to us,” said Cinnamon.

Adding to the frustration among businesses, packaging is also hard to come by.

“We couldn’t get any packaging for our homemade pies and cakes to be able to sell them, because there’s just no packaging out there,” said Cinnamon.

Cinnamon says he doesn’t see an end in sight yet to the shortages.

“I don’t even think we’ve hit the top of the hill yet. I think it’s going to get even worse. There’s not an end in sight yet,” said Cinnamon.

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