The United States is ringing in a new year amid a Covid-19 surge that experts warn is exploding at unprecedented speed and could alter daily life for many Americans during the first month of 2022. The latest surge, which has sent case numbers exploding across the globe, is fueled by the Omicron variant, the most contagious coronavirus strain yet, health experts say. The virus is now “extraordinarily contagious” and previous mitigation measures that used to help now may not be as helpful.
The nation broke records at least four times this week for its seven-day average of new daily Covid-19 cases, reporting an all-time high of more than 386,000 new daily infections Friday, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. The high case count is already causing disruptions in the country.
Healthcare services are the hardest hit, of course. Exhausted after several surges of the virus and now stretched thin again by a growing number of Covid-19 patients, hospitals are being even more severely impacted. The University of Maryland Capital Region Health this week joined a growing list of medical centers in the state to activate emergency protocols after a sharp rise in cases fueled staffing shortages and overwhelmed emergency departments.
(Double or triple re-infection definitely not recommended). pic.twitter.com/zT4IC2DpP3
— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) January 1, 2022
Thousands of flights have already been canceled or delayed throughout the holiday season as staff and crew called out sick. On Friday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said an “increased number” of its employees were testing positive for the virus, and that “to maintain safety, traffic volume at some facilities could be reduced, which might result in delays during busy periods.”
If air traffic controllers and other @FAANews workers can’t do their jobs, we can’t do our’s. Stop pretending we can just force workers to come to work sick. Safety first. Bad decisions now will lead to worse outcomes later. @CDCgov https://t.co/MrBN7y01nW
— Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) December 31, 2021
In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is plagued with staffing issues and announced three subway lines — the B, Z, and W — which service various parts of the boroughs, have been suspended. In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday announced the deployment of about 1,250 National Guard members as hospitals struggle with staffing shortages. On the same day, the Mayor of Cincinnati declared a state of emergency due to staffing shortages in the city’s fire department following a rise in Covid-19 infections. The Mayor’s declaration said that if the staffing problem goes unaddressed, it would “substantially undermine” first responders’ readiness levels.
— Governor Mike DeWine (@GovMikeDeWine) December 29, 2021
With the explosion in cases, colleges and universities across the country are returning to online classes, as are elementary and high schools. The Massachusetts Teachers Association, New England’s largest public sector union, urged the state education commissioner this week to keep schools closed on Monday, except for staff Covid-19 testing. In Georgia, Atlanta Public Schools announced that all district schools will operate virtually through Friday, January 7, for all students and staff.
Physicians around the country have a straightforward message based on what they're seeing in emergency rooms:
Vaccinations and boosters are having a very positive effect against omicron. https://t.co/yExOkvjNbR
— Nick Knudsen 🇺🇸 (@NickKnudsenUS) January 1, 2022