A health care worker administers a COVID-19 PCR test at a free testing site in Farragut Square on December 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Anna Money Maker | Getty Images
Covid-19 outbreak on a cruise in Lisbon. Thousands of flights canceled. Colleges become distant again.
It’s a new year but the pandemic is still causing the many massive disruptions to American life that it has been experiencing for nearly two years now.
The latest variant to blame is the Omicron strain, which is highly transmissible and likely to avoid vaccine protection. Over the past week, the seven-day average daily new cases of the virus exceeded 386,000, double the week before, according to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Rates are likely to be higher due to reporting delays during the holidays and an increase in home testing that could put cases off the radar of officials.
The surge in new Covid-19 cases means that attempts by businesses and schools to resume normal work after the holidays are upended once again.
Companies are delaying their return to work dates as cases reach their peak, including Chevron, Apple, Google and Uber.
Dozens of colleges have announced that they are moving lessons online. Harvard University said it will aim to move much of its business and distance learning for at least the first three weeks of January.
“Please know that we are not taking this step lightly,” Harvard University officials wrote in a letter to staff and students. “It’s driven by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country.”
Other schools making the change also include the University of Chicago, George Washington University, and Columbia University. Many colleges will likely require that students get their own booster to return in the spring, as advanced cases become more common.
Local school districts across the country are also reassessing their plans. Some areas are returning to distance learning or co-education, while others try to reduce children’s exposure to each other by having students attend classes on a modified schedule, without a lunch period.
Although New York City, the country’s largest school district, has seen an explosion in Covid cases, the school system will be open as scheduled on Monday. The district hopes to ramp up testing efforts to keep guidance in person. The plan is to double the frequency of testing, between both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. Students will be tested even if they do not show symptoms or have a history of contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
One concern is that people will return from vacations and visits with family and friends during the holidays, and will have inadvertently been exposed to Covid.
As the rush home resumes, travel has also been capsized by the virus and inclement weather, which has ground some planes.
By Saturday afternoon, more than 2,500 US flights had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. Some disturbances are also due to winter storms.
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 Associated Press reported on Saturday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that Americans should avoid cruises, regardless of their vaccination status.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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