Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022

Rising Covid-19 infections and winter storms halted America’s return to work Monday, stranded airline passengers and left many offices, commercial floors, schools and colleges empty after the Christmas and New Year holidays.

The seven-day moving average of new US Covid cases is approaching a record 400,000 on Sunday, according to the Financial Times data tracker. That was double the rate a week earlier and well above previous highs, forcing employers to reconsider their return-to-office plans.

The rapid proliferation of the highly transferable Omicron variant has led to several Wall Street banks, which are among the biggest champions to return to the office, to return to those plans.

Goldman Sachs has encouraged those who can work from home to do so by Jan. 18, a spokesman said, citing rising community infection rates in the US. It already has vaccine and mask requirements in place and will add a reinforcement requirement for all qualifying staff on February 1st.

Citigroup has asked office workers who do not have to be in the office to support critical business operations to work from home “for the first few weeks of the new year”.

Rich Handler and Brian Friedman, Jefferies’ top two executives, also encouraged staff to avoid indoor business functions and any business trips that were not critical. “Realistically, we do not foresee that we will all have a safe opportunity to be together in our offices until at least Monday, January 31st,” they wrote in a New Year’s message.

JPMorgan was one of the employers who also encouraged staff to be vaccinated and strengthened, while Bank of America will start offering booster clinics for employees in its buildings across the country this month.

Business leaders have swung behind vaccination campaigns as their best hope to resume more normal work patterns, even as some continue to challenge the Biden administration’s proposed vaccine mandate for larger employers in court.

More than 2,300 U.S. flights were grounded and another 2,700 were delayed as of Monday afternoon, according to flight detection company FlightAware. A number of disruptions related to inclement weather and airline staff shortages have meant that many travelers are unable to return to work at the end of the holiday period.

Heavy snow also forced the closure of government offices and schools in Washington DC as a winter storm hit the Mid-Atlantic region, exacerbating the challenges of Covid infections.

Brian Monahan, attending physician to Congress and the Supreme Court, has called on congressional offices, committees and agencies to move toward a “maximum telecommuting stance” after an increase in positivity figures at the Capitol Hill Testing Center.

Students and staff at Washington’s schools will be expected to provide evidence of a negative Covid test result to return to school on Thursday, the DC public school system said, as school systems across the country differ on whether to reopen. must be.

Detroit’s schools are closed for at least the first three days of the week while students in Newark, New Jersey, will study at a distance for at least the first two weeks of the year.

In New York, however, the largest public school system in the country reopened as planned, even though the city had set records for Covid infections.

“The safest place for our kids is in a school building, and we’re going to keep our schools open,” Eric Adams said as he spoke at a school in the Bronx on his third day as mayor of New York.

The transfer rates were much lower in schools than in households, Adams said, and previous school closures “really traumatized parents who did not have childcare,” which weighed heavily on poorer communities.

Children aged 16 and over already have access to booster shots, but on Monday the Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of BioNTech / Pfizer boosters for children as young as 12 and for some immunosuppressed children from five to 11. Prevention is expected to review the recommendation this week.

Harvard University was one of the colleges returning to remote work and told students that it would move much of its tuition online for the first three weeks of January “to reduce density on campus”.

Additional post by Mamta Badkar and James Politi

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