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As the U.S. enters a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, case numbers are higher than ever and disrupting businesses, travel plans and school schedules.
The U.S. is reporting a seven-day average of more than 386,000 cases after several record-breaking days during the past week, according to the data tracker by The New York Times. The U.S. surpassed 585,000 cases on Thursday, setting a new record before the New Year’s holiday.
New York, Washington, D.C., and other states along the East Coast are leading the national surge. New York reported more than 85,000 new cases on the last day of 2021, marking the highest one-day total in the state since the pandemic began.
“As we fight the winter surge, we need to keep the most vulnerable among us in mind — do what you can to keep others in your community safe from COVID-19,” New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement on Saturday.
Wear a mask, wash your hands and take advantage of the best tool we have at our disposal — the vaccine,” she said.
Last year’s winter surge in the U.S. peaked around Jan. 12, which may suggest that the country has a week or so before the current wave reaches its height and begins to drop, the newspaper reported.
In the meantime, people are dealing with disruptions as they return from holiday travel and begin the new year. Airlines canceled more than 2,700 flights on Saturday and more than 1,900 flights on Sunday, bringing the total since Christmas Eve to more than 14,000 canceled flights.
About half of cancellations were connected to wintry weather at key airline hubs in Chicago and Denver, the newspaper reported, as well as ongoing flight crew shortages due to the Omicron variant.
More disruptions could continue this week, the Federal Aviation Administration warned, as an increasing number of its air-traffic control employees test positive for COVID-19.
“To maintain safety, traffic volumes at some facilities could be reduced, which might result in delays during busy periods,” an FAA spokesman told The Wall Street Journal.
The current COVID-19 surge will also affect businesses and schools as the new year begins. A growing number of universities are opting to start the next semester with remote instruction.
American University, Duke University and Michigan State University announced in recent days that they would delay in-person classes to slow the spread of the coronavirus on campus. They will begin classes online on Jan. 10 and return to campus the following week or later.
“I realize that students prefer to be in person, and so do I. But it is important that we do so in a safe manner,” Samuel Stanley Jr., MD, president of Michigan State, said in a statement on New Year’s Eve.
K-12 school districts are deciding how to adapt as well. Some districts are bringing back mask requirements, and some are ramping up testing. Others are moving to remote learning — and signaling the need for flexibility as the Omicron variant brings new surprises.
“Change has been the only constant in this fight,” Roger Leon, the superintendent for Newark Public Schools in New Jersey, wrote in a note to parents. He announced Thursday that students will learn remotely for at least the first two weeks of the new year.
This continues “to be a brutal, relentless and ruthless virus that rears its ugly head at inopportune times,” he said.
The New York Times: “Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.”
The New York Times: “New York reports 85,000 cases in a day, another record, as surge shows no sign of slowing.”
New York State: “Governor Hochul Updates New Yorkers on State’s Progress Combating COVID-19.”
USA Today: “Check your flight status: Airlines have already canceled more than 1,900 Sunday flights.”
The Wall Street Journal: “Airlines Cancel More Than 1,300 Flights.”
NPR: “U.S. COVID cases continue to skyrocket and disruptions abound as 2022 begins.”
Michigan State University: “Dec. 31, 2021: Most classes to start remotely Jan. 10, stay virtual for three weeks.”
The Associated Press: “Schools adapt for return from break as COVID-19 cases surge.”
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