Will U.S. reopen? Sicknesses and closures continue can business go on

When WILL America reopen? Big banks tell workers to stay home, Smithsonian shuts four museums and a QUARTER of NYPD call but NYC Mayor Eric Adams says ‘it’s time to live with COVID’

  •  New York City Mayor Eric Adams vows to keep the city running despite municipal workforce shortage
  • Goldman Sachs rethinks back-to-the-office plan, as does Bank of America and Jeffries 
  •  Musical production of Mrs. Doubtfire shuts down for nine weeks, putting 115 people out of work
  •  Airlines have been forced to scrub thousands of flights due to lack of crew numbers
  • President Biden plan for addressing Omicron could be too late 
  • FDA approves vaccine for kids over 12 and immunocompromised children 5 to 11 

Political and business leaders have resisted any new lockdown measures in the face of the surge of COVID-19 infections, but the blistering rate of new cases may undermine their effort to keep the U.S. economy rolling. 

President Biden on Sunday unveiled his plan for combatting the spike in cases, including guidance for booster shots for all adults that includes paid time off, promises of free at-home tests, more restrictive travel protocols, mask mandates, wider vaccination distribution and vaccine outreach.

‘These actions will help keep our economy growing and keep Americans safe from severe COVID-19, the president said.

But the plan may be too late as thousands of businesses across the US are forced into de facto lockdowns as a result of the Omicron variant causing a shortage of staff. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams vowed to keep schools open despite some being forced to teach remotely as they’re hit with a shortage of teachers who have tested positive. On Wall St, big banks like Goldman Sachs ordered all employees to work from home for the first two weeks of January, and the NYPD has seen at least 21% of officers call in sick – the most in the entire pandemic.

Four Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. shut down temporarily because of new winter cases and an outbreak with the Washington Football Team caused the organization to send workers home. Nationwide, Starbucks has refused to shut its stores, and will require all workers to get vaccinated or have weekly tests. 

The U.S. averaged 413,304 new cases in the past seven days, and 1,350 new deaths over the same period. The seven-day average is the highest of the pandemic.

On Monday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said the number of positive cases in the state are ‘shocking’, with 51,000 new cases reported. However, she added that the number is more likely to be much higher due to the lag in reporting over the weekend. She added that hospitalizations are also continuing to rise.

‘Those numbers are probably going to be much higher,’ she warned.

Hospitalizations across the state have reached a seven-day average of 37,300 new admissions, and cases are peaking at about 335,000 over a seven-day average.

California chalked nearly 10,000 cases on Sunday while Massachusetts and Texas both had more than 2,000 cases in a day. Florida has seen COVID-19 cases rise dramatically in the last 14 days by 948%.  On Saturday, 56,865 new cases were reported. One day earlier, more than 75,900 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state.  

In New York, Mayor Eric Adams, on his third day in office, vowed to keep the city school system open despite a high volume of teachers calling out sick.

‘I know there are questions about staff. I know there are questions about testing, but we’re going to turn those questions into an exclamation point. We’re staying open,’ he said outside Concourse Village Elementary in the Bronx. 

Earlier, he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that he will deploy resources to schools with teacher shortages. 

‘It’s time to live with Covid and build systems around Covid until it dissipates and leaves us. Until then, the city has to operate,’ he said.

School closures threaten to hobble the local economy when working parents are forced to stay home to look after their children. In Manhattan, the Xavier High School in Chelsea switched to remote classes until Wednesday because of staff shortages.

‘I know that many people in our community were significantly impacted by the COVID-19 virus in the past two weeks,’ Headmaster Kim Smith wrote in an email to parents. ‘Unfortunately, many of our teaching faculty are currently under isolation and unable to return to the building.’

On Monday, Adams, on his third day in office, vowed to keep the city school system open despite a high volume of teachers calling out sick. ‘I know there are questions about staff. I know there are questions about testing, but we’re going to turn those questions into an exclamation point. We’re staying open,’ he said outside Concourse Village Elementary in the Bronx 

Working parents struggle when schools are closed. Bronx elementary school children head to class on Monday after the New Year celebration

The New York City Police Department reported that more than a fifth – 21 percent – of its workforce was out sick on New Year’s Eve. The city’s Emergency Medical Service, which operates the city’s ambulance corps, was also hit hard by infections.

Sicknesses have also knocked out the city’s ambulance corps. 

‘When you’re grossly understaffed, major illnesses exacerbate that problem and we are seeing that again now a lot of members are getting sick,’ Vincent Variale, president of the Uniformed EMS Officers Union FDNY told FOX 5 News. 

Adams said last week in his six-point plan for combating the spreading virus that he would continue vaccination mandates for the private sector and consider requiring booster shots as well to the requirement. 

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for all children above the age of 12 and for kids 5 to 11 who are immunocompromised.

Many in the business community struggled under coronavirus restrictions and vowed to get back to work in 2022 – with most big banks on Wall Street ordering their staff back to the offices by January.

Starbucks announced on Monday that it will requires employees to get vaccinated by February 9 or submit to weekly testing. The coffee company will also workers to disclose their vaccination status by Jan. 10, Bloomberg News reported.

But Goldman Sachs, a leading American investment bank, backtracked on their bullish back-to-the-office policy in the face of the new infections.

 ‘As we continue to monitor the trajectory of this spike, we now encourage those who can work effectively from home to do so,’ the corporation said Sunday in a memo to employees.

Just last week the bank had told workers that they had to have a booster shot by February 1 to return to the office.

Last week, JPMorgan gave their employees the option of working from home until February because of the spike. Citigroup, Jeffries Financial Group and Bank of America also urged workers to stay home for the first few weeks of the year.

More Broadway closures were also announced on Monday.

The musical production of Mrs. Doubtfire will temporarily halt for nine weeks from January 10 to March 14, costing 115 people their jobs, according to Bloomberg News.

The live entertainment and hospitality industry has been hit the hardest by the rapid spread of the new strain.

In Austin, famed roasted meat spot Franklin’s Barbecue shut down over the New Year’s Eve because of the spike.

Louisville, Kentucky bars and restaurants have braced for another tough winter season.

 ‘There is no way to guess what is going to happen,’ Drew Johnson, Falls City Brewing Operations Manager, told WDRB News. ‘The best that we can do is adapt and create the best environment that we can for everybody.’

The airline industry continues to struggle from the spread of the highly contagious Omicron strain.

New York state Gov. Kathy Hochul said that she expects the current spike to follow the trend set last year of increased winter infections that would tapper off in the months to come

Air carriers cancelled thousands of flights over the New Year’s Eve weekend after a week of more than 1,000 takeoffs scrubbed daily due to crew shortages brought on by COVID sicknesses, according to the Wall Street Journal. On Monday, nearly 2,000 flights were cancelled – due to both a shortage of staff and powerful snow storms hobbling travel.

New York-based JetBlue executive Robert Hayes called it a perfect storm of demand and outbreak.

‘This is really the first time we have a…very transmissive phase, variant of Covid at the same time that we’re in a peak travel period,’ Mr. Hayes told the Journal. 

Last week, federal health officials bowed to pressure from the airlines to cut the isolation period after infection from 10 days to five. 

The union that represents flight attendants questioned the move and suggested that the government was putting profits over the health of employees.

So far it’s unclear if the hyphenated isolation period has made a difference.

‘We’re still losing more people every day than we’re getting come back,’ Hayes told the newspaper. ‘Many of our crew members are really stepping up and taking additional shifts.’

The shorten period came with other complications as White House health adviser Anthony Fauci took heat for suggesting he would flip-flop how people could exit quarantine. Originally, those who were asymptomatic for 24 hours could leave isolation after five days. On Sunday, however, Fauci suggested that those infected would have to test negative before returning to normal life.

‘There has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested,’ he said on ABC News. ‘That is something that is now under consideration.’

Twitter exploded with pushback on the proposal.

‘So they change the Protocols because of facted based science and research but now want to add a negative test because of push back? Wow,’ posted Twitter user Jerry Watkinds. 

Other parts of the country are also beginning to feel the spikes the Omicron wave.  

Some companies, seeing the wave of infections growing since November, made accommodations.

Toyota assembly plants in the U.S., which employs 48,000, added workers and on-site testing to prevent disrupting their operations, according to the Journal.

There have been more than 55 million cases of coronavirus recorded in the U.S. since 2020, Omicron accounts for 29,384 infections. The virus has killed 826,065 Americans since the beginning of the pandemic.

Winter has been a time of increased infections because people congregate indoors giving the virus a greater chance to spread.

In Canada, there’s been less resistance to reinstituting mandates. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that he would once again shutdown restaurants and switch schools in the province to online learning. 

The Omicron variant, which is more infectious than other strains, was first discovered in South Africa, which saw a sharp uptick in sicknesses, but their surge has begun to wain over the past few weeks. 

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