A health care professional conducts a COVID-19 PCR test at a vacant testing site in Farragut Square on December 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Anna Money Maker | Getty Images
A Covid-19 outbreak on a cruise in Lisbon. Thousands of flights canceled. Colleges are going far away again.
It’s a new year, but the pandemic continues to cause many of the same massive disruptions to American life that it has in nearly two years.
The most recent culpable variant is the Omicron strain, which is highly transmissible and tends to evade vaccine protection. For the past week, a seven-day average of new daily infections with the virus topped 386,000, doubling from the previous week, according to CNBC analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. Rates are likely to be even higher as there are delays in reporting the holidays and an increase in home testing, which may keep cases off officials’ radar.
The rise in new Covid-19 cases means that attempts by companies and schools to resume normal operations after the holidays are again being turned upside down.
Companies are postponing their return dates to the height of the falls, including Chevron, Apple, Google, and Uber.
Dozens of colleges have announced that they are moving their courses online. Harvard University announced that it will remotely relocate much of its work and learning 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 triggered by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country.”
Other schools that are also making the change are the University of Chicago, George Washington University, and Columbia University. Many colleges will likely require students to get their booster vaccinations in the spring as breakthrough cases become more common.
Local school districts across the country are also rethinking their plans. Some districts are switching back to distance learning or hybrid learning, while others are trying to reduce the children’s stress on each other by having students attend classes on a changed schedule with no lunch breaks.
Although there has been an explosion in Covid cases in New York City, the largest school district in the country, the school system will open as scheduled on Monday. The district hopes to step up testing efforts to keep classes personal. There are plans to double the pace of testing in both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. Students are tested even if they show no symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has the virus.
One concern is that people are returning from vacation and visiting family and friends over the holidays and have been unknowingly exposed to Covid.
As the rush home began, travel was turned upside down by both the virus and the stormy weather that has brought some planes to a standstill.
According to the tracking service FlightAware, more than 2,500 US flights were canceled by Saturday afternoon. Some of the disruptions are also due to winter storms.
A cruise ship with over 4,000 people on board was stopped in Lisbon, Portugal, due to a Covid-19 outbreak among crew members, the AP 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.