The national Omicron “sick-out” wreaks havoc across the US, from stores to subways

Thursday, January 13, 2022 by Robinhood Snacks |

Spreading like wildfire... The US is seeing record hospitalizations, driven largely by people under age 60, as uber-contagious Omicron spreads. (FYI: Hospitalization totals include people who test positive after being admitted for non-Covid reasons.) Omicron is half as likely to hospitalize people compared with Delta, but there are way more cases: The US logged a record 1.35M new infections on Monday, the highest daily total for any country. Omicron accounts for about 98% of cases in America.

  • 5M+ US workers could be isolating this week, but only a third of low-wage workers are getting paid sick leave, leaving many with a financial burden.
  • Meanwhile: Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, Walmart, and Delta shortened their paid sick leave after the CDC cut its recommended isolation time to 5 days from 10.

Called in sick... As if supply and labor shortages weren't enough, Omicron is causing mass disruptions in sectors that require IRL work — think: empty grocery shelves and global manufacturing delays. A fifth of US hospitals are severely understaffed, and a fifth of NYC subway workers were out sick last week, which caused train delays. It’s hitting businesses too:

  • Starbucks, Nike, and Lululemon joined Macy's, Walmart, and Apple in reducing store hours or temporarily closing locations. Lulu even lowered its earnings guidance.
  • US airlines have canceled more than 28K flights, and United is planning more flight cuts after nearly a third of its Newark staff called in sick on a single day. (Delta could give a status update when it reports today.)

2022 could be the year Covid is “normalized”... World leaders have started positioning the virus as a normal part of life. The UK told the British public that they would have to “learn to live with” Covid, and Spain’s prime minister suggested the EU should consider treating it as an endemic illness like the flu. Biden too is preparing Americans to accept the virus as part of daily life. The upshot: Scientists are seeing signals that Omicron could peak soon in the US.