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The COVID pandemic is global; the road to recovery is, too | Editorial
The push to maximize efficiency at major ports and to reopen borders will help the economy.
When it departs from Port Tampa Bay on Saturday, Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas will be the first cruise ship to carry passengers out of Tampa since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
When it departs from Port Tampa Bay on Saturday, Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas will be the first cruise ship to carry passengers out of Tampa since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. [ DAN LAMONT | Royal Caribbean ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Oct. 15

The Biden administration announced two important steps this week that should bolster the nation’s recovery from the pandemic. On Tuesday, the White House said it would lift travel restrictions at the borders with Canada and Mexico, reestablishing some ties after months of lockdowns spurred by COVID-19. And Wednesday, the administration unveiled a brokered agreement with major ports, retailers and shippers to operate around the clock, a move that should ease the backlog in consumer goods. They are more reminders that America must confront a global pandemic on a global front.

The U.S. will lift restrictions at its land borders with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November, opening the border to non-essential travel for the first time since the pandemic exploded in March 2020. The closures have been devastating for many families and border communities, and reopening them is another step toward normalizing tourism and trade along these busy corridors.

The administration also moved to clear a logjam in the supply chain that’s holding up the delivery of consumer goods. President Joe Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, following a commitment the Port of Long Beach announced two weeks ago. These are among the largest ports in the world, and together, they account for 40 percent of the shipping containers that America imports into the country.

The extended hours will help speed the offloading of dozens of containers ships that are currently waiting to berth. Biden also announced Wednesday that the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, and other companies, including Target, Home Depot, FedEx and UPS, had agreed to vastly expand operations in off-peak hours, in what the president called a “step toward moving our entire freight transportation and logistical supply chain, nationwide, to a 24/7 system.” That should help thousands of major retailers and smaller outlets as Americans clamor for everything from bicycles and toys to laptops and lawn chairs. The shortages have helped increase inflation, which jumped more than expected last month, and have also helped sap Biden’s approval ratings.

The administration waited too long to act, but these moves will grease the economy and inject some much-needed confidence among Americans as the holiday season approaches. More locally, the same’s true for the return of the cruise industry to Tampa Bay. After more than a year and a half, the industry sails again this weekend when the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas departs Tampa for a five-night cruise to the Bahamas. Cruises normally bring in more than one-fifth of Port Tampa Bay’s annual revenue. Their return marks the reemergence of a vital industry and an engine for a growing port.

Of course, there’s only so much that opening the borders, working midnight hours, and resuming cruises can do to strengthen the global recovery. The pandemic has shut down manufacturing and closed transportation loops across the worldwide supply chain. And many countries that play a key role in producing consumer goods are still plagued by low vaccination rates. Returning the international order to normal will take time.

But opening the ports and borders is an essential step in managing the pandemic. And it shows America’s self-interest in upping the fight against COVID-19 abroad.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.