New year begins with 2,300 U.S. flights canceled due to omicron outbreak

For air travelers, the New Year picked up where the old left off – with great frustration.

By mid-morning Saturday on the east coast, more than 2,300 US flights had been canceled, according to the tracking service FlightAware. It is the highest one-day toll to date since airlines began blaming staff shortages on rising COVID-19 infections among crews just before Christmas.

However, Saturday’s disruptions weren’t just due to the virus. The wintry weather made Chicago the worst place in the country for travelers, with 800 flights cleaned up at O’Hare Airport and over 250 at Midway Airport.

Southwest had canceled more than 450 flights, or 13% of its program. SkyWest, which operates flights such as American Eagle, Delta Connection, and United Express, has grounded more than 400 flights, or 21% of its schedule. American, Delta, United and JetBlue have all flown over 100 flights each.

BACK TO SCHOOL ?

Meanwhile, as cases of COVID-19 increase just as students are about to return from winter vacation, dozens of colleges across the US are bringing classes back online for at least the first week or so of the semester. – and some warn it could stretch for longer if the wave of infection doesn’t go away soon.

Harvard is moving classes online for the first three weeks of the New Year, with a return to campus slated for late January, “conditions permitting.”

The University of Chicago is delaying the start of its new term and is holding the first two weeks online. Others invite students to return to campus but start classes online, including Michigan State University.

Many colleges are hoping that an extra week or two will get them past the peak of the national peak caused by the highly contagious variant of omicron. Still, the surge throws uncertainty over a semester many had hoped to be the closest to normal since the start of the pandemic.

For some American students, starting the term remotely is becoming routine – many colleges have used this strategy in the past year. But some fear the latest change will extend well beyond a week or two.

IN THE MEANTIME IN LAS VEGAS

In Las Vegas, CES’s annual gadget convention will last three days instead of four amid a surge in COVID-19 cases and the withdrawal of some of its most well-known tech presenters.

The convention’s organizer, the Consumer Technology Association, announced on Friday that CES will be held Jan. 5-7, a day shorter than expected. The event still has over 2,200 exhibitors confirmed to showcase their products at the Las Vegas convention, spokesperson Jeanne Abella said.

The announcement follows the tech giants’ withdrawal from CES last week citing the health risks of the omicron variant, including mobile carriers like T-Mobile, whose CEO was scheduled to deliver a keynote address.

Computer maker Lenovo and social media companies like Twitter and Facebook’s parent company Meta have also canceled plans to attend. News organizations, including CNN, said they would cancel or reduce coverage.

CES was held entirely virtually last year. It will be an online and in-person hybrid this year, with organizers offering a digital entry allowing access to around 40 live-streamed events, Abella said.

HELP FOR NEW YORK’S HPITALS

Federal ambulance teams and additional members of the National Guard are heading to New York, and hospitals in western New York City receive more federal assistance as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. State officials announced the new deployments on Friday.

Governor Kathy Hochul also said that students at state universities and the City University of New York will need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on campus in the spring semester and will need to test negative before returning from vacation.

The number of new confirmed cases broke records every day in the state, surpassing 76,500 on Thursday, Hochul said at a press conference. An average of 53,000 New Yorkers per day tested positive in the week that ended Thursday, up from 13,000 per day two weeks earlier. More than 7,900 people with COVID-19 are hospitalized statewide, up 67% in one week.

RECORD CASES IN FLORIDA

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 75,900 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida on Friday.

That tally brings the 7-day daily average to 42,600, which is twice as high as it was at the peak of this summer’s outbreak when the delta variant fueled an outbreak of infections in the state. .

Friday’s report marks a single-day record for the number of new cases in Florida. It breaks the record set a day earlier when more than 58,000 cases were reported in the state. The omicron variant of the coronavirus has increased in Florida and across the country in recent weeks.

The surge in numbers during the holiday season has sent tens of thousands of people to COVID-19 testing centers across Florida, resulting in long lines in many areas. Three people collapsed as they lined up at a Tampa test site on Friday morning.

TEXAS ASKS FOR HELP

Texas officials on Friday asked for federal help to increase testing and treatment for COVID-19 following reports the state lacking the antibody treatment that has been shown to be most effective against the omicron variant .

In a statement, Governor Greg Abbott said the Texas Division for Emergency Management and the Texas State Department of Health Services made the request.

They are seeking federal resources for additional COVID-19 testing sites in six counties, an increase in medical staff and more sotrovimab, the monoclonal antibody treatment that has been shown to be most effective against the more transmissible omicron.

Abbott called on the Biden administration “to step up this fight and provide the resources needed to help protect the Texans.”


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