Omicron surge leads to worker shortages across nation

(CNN) Teachers, police officers, hospital staff, and airport officials; they’re just some of the 700,000 Americans testing positive for COVID every day, meaning millions are stuck at home sick, isolating or quarantining. That’s fueling major disruptions to everyday life and the economy.

In Los Angeles, more than 60,000 school staff and students have tested positive in the run-up to reopening. In New York, trash lies uncollected. Three subway lines are closed. Many city staff are out sick. Across Colorado, so many EMTs are out they’re now turning away non-urgent callers.

Upwards of 5 million Americans could be home isolating this week, said one economist, all down to the Omicron tsunami.

Nearly a quarter of American hospitals are now reporting a “critical staff shortage” with nearly 140,000 patients in those hospitals fighting COVID-19.

Professor and Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Peter Hotez said, “Much of our hospital workforce is getting knocked out at home with symptomatic COVID.”

Some overwhelmed testing labs are now forced to prioritize results just for the symptomatic.

“Diagnostic testing is in shambles,” Dr. Hotez said. “And so, when you add up all of that together, we’ve got a very serious situation facing our nation his month.”

The country is now averaging a stunning 700,000 plus new COVID-19 infections every day, an all-time high. And it’s still rising.

Thousands of schools didn’t open after winter break due to COVID. Others closed to slow the spread. Elsewhere, there are strikes because teachers want more safety measures.

Carrie Landheer is a teacher at Garfield Elementary in Oakland, California. She said, “I agree that the best learning happens in schools. But I don’t feel safe at work right now.”

One North Carolina district is now telling some high schoolers to ride city buses because they’re out of drivers for the yellow ones. In the meantime, city bus services were slashed in the likes of Washington D.C. and Portland, Oregon.

Cruises are also being canceled and more than 25,000 flights canceled since Christmas due to weather and Omicron.

How long might all this last? Well, Alaska airlines cut 10% of its flights through the end of January.

It will soon become easier to test for COVID-19. Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests. No doctor’s order, prescription or office visit will be required, and the tests won’t be subject to copays or deductibles.

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