Omicron spread disrupts recovery of US businesses

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-01-17 09:38
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Travelers wait in line for COVID-19 testing at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, on Jan 3, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

NEW YORK -- The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is fueling the biggest infection wave and hampering economic recovery in the United States, as reflected in the cancellation of thousands of flights by major US airlines and the unbridled annual inflation which surged to an almost 40-year high in December.

"January's been a wild month, and it's only half over. The spread of Omicron infections across the world is causing millions of Americans to isolate again like it's 2020," reported Business Insider on Saturday. Workers are staying home sick, and others are continuing to avoid the workforce for fear of the virus.

"As Omicron peaks, service may be slower at understaffed stores this month. Or, if companies have resumed pre-pandemic practices, employees at your local restaurant or grocery store might be working with COVID-19," said the report, noting that though vaccines have become available throughout the country, Omicron evades vaccine protection more than previous variants.


Citigroup Inc is sticking with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its US workers, while General Electric Co (GE) is not -- "the two American companies are going in opposite directions after the Supreme Court blocked on Thursday the Joe Biden administration's rule that big employers require their employees to get vaccines or submit to testing," reported The Wall Street Journal on Saturday.

Citigroup, which has about 65,000 employees in the United States, said that it had reached 99 percent compliance one day before the Jan 14 deadline the bank had set for US workers to get vaccinated or request an accommodation for medical or religious reasons. "Our goal has always been to keep everyone at Citi, and we sincerely hope all of our colleagues take action to comply," said the company's human-resources chief Sara Wechter.

At the start of 2021, GE had about 56,000 employees in the United States. It originally told them they were required to get vaccinated or seek a religious or medical accommodation by early December. It suspended that policy in December after a court challenge temporarily blocked the rule for federal contractors. On Friday, GE suspended its remaining COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

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