Texas Reports Delta Variant is Hammering Construction—Again

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Robison Wells

Despite the rapidly growing population, the pandemic-driven boom in residential housing sales and the high demand for builders with large backlogs, construction in the Lone Star State looks dismal.

Travis Moss, EVP of Operations at Zachry Construction in San Antonio, says the new wave blindsided him. “The number of construction workers out sick has definitely picked up again with the Delta Variant.” Zachry Construction works on infrastructure like highways, bridges, and dams across the United States. In early August, COVID-19 forced them to shut down a bridge replacement in Eagle Lake, seventy miles west of Houston.

Others suffer Zachry Construction’s plight. For example, DPR Construction, a national general contractor working on the Google Tower in downtown Austin reported absences that decimate small pockets of the workforce where the construction laborers work in proximity.

CORE Construction claims to have left behind the worst of sick worker call-ins. However, the second wave of supply shortages and an uptick in Delta Variant cases present new obstacles. According to Texas Monthly, “Every construction firm in the state is struggling with this, in part because manufacturers and suppliers of everything from lumber to drywall are beset by worker shortages—including virus outbreaks among current staff—as they attempt to ramp up output.”

Statewide construction jobs continue to decline, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In December, the workforce decreased to 724,800 jobs. However, it grew to 749,500 by March. In July, the numbers dropped to 725,000.

A Carnegie-Mellon University study cited the construction industry as the most vaccine-hesitant occupation, with 46% of workers stating that they would probably not or definitely not get the vaccine.

A University of Texas study asserted that construction workers who contracted COVID were five times more likely to be hospitalized than the typical population due to work proximity. Also, according to the study, “many construction workers also belong to racial and ethnic minority groups that have a higher prevalence of serious health complications from COVID-19 exposure.”

Peter Rodriguez, Texas’s Rice University School of Business, said: “Uncertainty is just toxic to growth.”

With the Delta Variant moving through construction, builders can expect more workers to call in sick. The results: extended deadlines and hiked construction expenses.

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