The ongoing COVID surge fueled by the Omicron variant is on track to continue shuttering thousands of businesses across the US as staff come down with the virus.
The US reached a seven-day average of 402,998 cases on Sunday, as Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that Americans may soon need to produce a negative COVID test to leave quarantine after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cut the isolation period from 10 days to five for the asymptomatic.
The CDC decision to slash the quarantine period in half for patients without symptoms came last Tuesday in an effort to prevent another devastating blow to the economy amid the spike in workers testing positive.
However, Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said in an ABC News interview Sunday that that the requirement to test negative before returning to work and into society is now ‘under consideration.’
Thousands of businesses across the US have had to close their doors temporarily aid staffing shortages caused by the latest COVID-19 surge. The above sign was seen on on Asian Korean and Japanese restaurant in Racine, Wisconsin
Dr. Anthony Fauci warned on ABC News that Americans may soon need to produce a negative COVID test to leave quarantine
His interview came amid an influx of businesses closing their doors because of staffing shortages caused by COVID infections, with most businesses not having a specific reopening date in sight.
Last week, Oak Steakhouse in Charlotte, North Carolina, joined the growing list of businesses forced into shutdown.
‘We apologize for the late notice, but due to staffing concerns with the rise of COVID cases, we will be closing the restaurant this evening,’ the restaurant wrote on its Facebook page.
‘All reservations will be contacted directly through OpenTable or via phone call. We will post updates here as we have them. Thank you for understanding,’ the post added.
Charlotte has been particularly impacted by the shutdowns as its COVID average case count multiplied tenfold within the week, going from 152 cases to 1,654.
Noda Bodega is another Charlotte restaurant impacted by the surge and has already closed for five days, giving guests updates on Instagram for when it believes it can reopen.
‘We have now had a couple positive test results and will remained closed today to clean. We have tested everyone and since we have been closed for 5 days now, feel confident that we can reopen tomorrow. We thank you for your patience and understanding in the unchartered territory.’ The restaurant wrote in an Instagram post.
As described in its post, Noda Bodega is taking things day by day as opposed to closing for an indefinite amount of time. In this surge, as opposed to the beginning of the pandemic, everyone from local leaders to President Joe Biden are against enforcing blanket shutdowns. Instead, all decisions about closing are left to the businesses.
‘All of the decision making is put on the small-business owners,’ Brent Young, who runs a butcher shop and two restaurants in Brooklyn, told The Atlantic.
Young said that two weeks ago one of his employees tested positive for COVID and, since then, ‘it’s more or less decimated our workforce.’
One of his restaurants had a packed schedule for a week leading up to Christmas, which is usually his busiest time of year, but people began cancelling their plans. Young said it became financially illogical to stay open ‘because the anxiety’s so high no one’s wanting to eat [out].’
Although Omicron is much more mild than previous strains, even mild infections could disrupt a city when spread widely enough.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who was sworn in at midnight on New Year’s Eve, confirmed his opposition to shutting down in an interview with ABC News this morning, instead saying that we must ‘evolve’ with the virus.
‘Well, covid is a formidable opponent, and it continues to evolve. We must pivot and evolve with it, but you can’t do it viewing yourself from in the crisis. We have to see ourselves past the crises. If we close down our city, it is as dangerous as covid. That’s what our focus must be. The proper balance of safety, keeping our economy operating is going to allow us to get through this,’ he said.
’Nobody wants to close down, but we’re operating at half speed. Subway lines are closed, and testing centers are short on staff as well. How do we get back to normal? Can we get back to normal with all these shortages?’
In addition to seeing restaurants, subway lines and even urgent care centers closing, Adams said that the NYPD is also facing a blow from the COVID-19 surge with a 20% sick rate.
Because of all of the closures, the CDC announced last week that those who test positive for COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, need only quarantine for five days instead of 10 as long as they wear a mask in all public spaces for an additional five days. But a number of top health experts and the nation’s largest nurses’ union criticized the change for not requiring people to test negative of the virus before returning to the public.
‘Regardless of what CDC says, you really should try to obtain an antigen test (I know – easier said than done) and confirm it’s negative prior to leaving isolation and quarantine. There’s not a scientist or doctor I’ve met yet who wouldn’t do this for themselves/their family,’ said former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted last week.
Amid the pushback, Fauci said on ABC News’s ‘This Week’ this morning that the CDC is considering making the change to its guidance.
‘You’re right there has been some concern about why we don’t ask people at that five-day period to get tested. That is something that is now under consideration. The CDC is very well aware that there has been some pushback about that. Looking at it again, there may be an option in that, that testing could be a part of that. And I think we’re going to be hearing more about that in the next day or so from the CDC,’ Fauci said.
Fauci’s comments come as South Africa, where the Omicron virus was first reported, passed the peak of its coronavirus cases caused by the variant, prompting scientists to project that the U.S. will hit its own Omicron peak by the middle of January.
The U.S. may reach the peak by January 9, which would see from 2.5 million cases to 5.4 million cases per week, according to researchers from Columbia University, the New York Times reported.
“We are realizing right now monitoring the data that the peak is going to come much faster. My guess is it will happen before mid-January,’ Ali Mokdad, a public health researcher at the University of Washington, also told the news outlet.
The US reached a seven-day average of 402,998 cases on Sunday and 115,984 new cases. Above, people waited on line at a pop-up testing site in Houston, Texas, on December 30
Meanwhile, a number of elected officials have had to quarantine after experiencing breakthrough COVID-19 cases.
Most recently, Democratic Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley announced she tested positive for the coronavirus in a breakthrough case.
” After experiencing COVID-like symptoms, this morning I received a positive, breakthrough COVID-19 test result. Thankfully, my symptoms are relatively mild, and I am grateful to be fully vaccinated and boosted. I am currently isolating and following all health protocols in order to mitigate further spread and keep my loved ones and community safe,’ Pressley said in a statement Friday.
‘I encourage everyone to do their part by getting vaccinated, boosted and masking up. I wish everyone a safe and happy new year and look forward to continuing to fight for the robust relief our communities in the Massachusetts 7th need and deserve,’ she added.
In addition to Pressley, other lawmakers who have come down with COVID-19 in the past few weeks include Democrats Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Antonio Delgado, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Sen. Chris Coons, Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Rep. Doris Matsui, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Republican New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis.