Passengers line up at John F. Kennedy International Airport after airlines announced many flights were canceled as the Omicron coronavirus variant spread on Christmas Eve in Queens, New York, on December 24, 2021.
Dieu-Nalio Chery | Reuters
A Covid-19 epidemic during a cruise in Lisbon. Thousands of canceled flights. Colleges are becoming distant again.
It’s a new year, but the pandemic continues to cause many of the same massive disruptions in American life that it has had for almost two years now.
The most recent variant to blame is the omicron strain, which is highly transmissible and more likely to escape vaccine protection. Over the past week, a seven-day average of new daily cases of the virus topped 386,000, double the previous week, according to TBEN analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The rates are likely even higher as there are delays in reporting during the holidays and an increase in home testing that can put cases off the radar of authorities.
The rise in the number of new cases of Covid-19 means that attempts by businesses and schools to resume normal operations after the holidays are shaken up again.
Companies are pushing back their return-to-work dates as cases peak, including Chevron, Apple, Google and Uber.
Dozens of colleges have announced they are moving the courses online. Harvard University has said it will aim to move much of its work and learning to distance for at least the first three weeks of January.
“Please know that we are not taking this step lightly,” Harvard officials wrote in a letter to staff and students. “This is being brought on by the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country.”
Other schools that are also effecting the change include the University of Chicago, George Washington University, and Columbia University. Many colleges will likely require students to have their booster shots in the spring, as breakthrough cases become more common.
Local school districts across the country are also reassessing their plans. Some districts are reverting to distance or hybrid learning, while others are trying to reduce children’s exposure to each other by having students attend classes on a modified schedule, with no lunch break.
Although New York City, which is the largest school district in the country, has seen an explosion in Covid cases, the school system will be open as scheduled on Monday. The district hopes to step up its testing efforts to maintain in-person teaching.
One of the concerns is that people return from vacations and visit family and friends while on vacation. Travel has also been disrupted by the virus.
A cruise ship with more than 4,000 people on board has been stopped in Lisbon, Portugal, due to an outbreak of Covid-19 among crew members, the TBEN reported on Saturday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that Americans are avoiding cruises, regardless of their vaccination status.
Meanwhile, as of Saturday morning, more than 2,400 US flights had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. Some of the disturbances are also due to winter storms.
– The The Bharat Express News contributed to this report.