Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Essential workers slammed again as Omicron variant spreads

with latest coronavirus Another holiday season wave, frontline workers are feeling a troubling sense of deja vu. Rising number of US infections linked to omicron version The crisis has only deepened among essential workers, many of whom report being discouraged, abused, underpaid and terminated as the pandemic approaches in their second year.

As 2021 draws to a close, workers in health care, transportation, retail, food services and other key sectors are falling victim to COVID-19 again, leaving an already low workforce to take the plunge. leading to shortage Hundreds of canceled flights, closed eateries and retail stores with fewer employees. Above all, workers speak of a renewed sense of fatigue and frustration.

“We don’t have enough hands. Everyone is working out as much as they can, both physically and mentally,” Judy Snarsky, a grocery worker in Massachusetts, told the Associated Press. “Some of us are going like a freight train.”

The supermarket where she works on Cape Cod has about 100 fewer employees than her normal level of 150, and Snarsky is working 50 hours a week while taking on extra tasks, the 59-year-old said. said.

“I have really bad anxiety”

At CityMD, rising COVID-19 cases among employees has forced the New York-area chain of private urgent care clinics to close 1 in 10 locations this week. Gothamist reported that New York City’s public hospital system has made nearly all clinic visits virtual this week to free up nurses for hospitals and testing sites.

“I am concerned about the loss of staff due to Omicron,” said hospital system CEO Michelle Katz.

Michelle Gonzalez, a nurse at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, said she and her intensive care unit colleagues were never discharged from COVID-19, while the arrival of Omicron added to the tension.

“Before I work, I have really bad anxiety,” she said. “If I’m out for two days, I’ll come back in a panic because I don’t know what I’m doing.”

At least seven states in the Midwest and Northeast have called on hundreds of National Guard members to help fill labor gaps in hospitals and nursing homes where they serve food, transport patients and other non-clinicals. operate.

Violence against nurses escalates amid pandemic


Unions representing health care workers say far too many hospitals have failed to fill staff vacancies or retain staff fatigued by the pandemic. For example, New York’s three largest hospitals alone have 1,500 nursing vacancies — nearly double the number at the start of the pandemic, said Carl Ginsberg, a spokesman for the 42,000-member New York State Nurses Association.

“There aren’t enough nurses to do the job properly, and so there are situations where there are dangerous situations in units where patients are at risk,” Ginsberg told the AP.

To tackle shortages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends allowing health care workers who test positive for COVID-19 get back to work early unless they have symptoms. (Countries including Spain and the UK have taken similar steps.)

In West Virginia, Governor Jim Justice outlined a plan to recruit and train more than 2,000 new nurses over the next four years, using $48 million in federal funds to help.

Meanwhile, Omicron-run long-term care facilities are prepared for a potential increase in COVID-19 cases. Worryingly, their workforce is 15% smaller than it was before the pandemic, according to Rachel Reeves, a spokeswoman for the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.

“Carers get burned out,” she said. “Not only have many people experienced tremendous loss – it has been physically and emotionally exhausting, battling this virus day in and day out.”

canceled flights, fewer policemen

COVID-19 is again wreaking havoc among workers facing the public in transport and security. United, Delta and other US airlines More than 600 flights canceled On Christmas Eve because so many employees were sick.

“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crew and the people running our operations,” a United Airlines spokesperson said in a statement.

The airline industry has urged the government to relax quarantine protocols, which could have an impact on the ongoing wave of the disease on its workforce.

Flights cancelled, Omicron . plans developed by


“Along with the health care, police, fire and public transportation workforce, the Omicron increase could exacerbate personnel shortages and cause significant disruption to our workforce and operations,” industry group Airlines for America wrote to the CDC on Wednesday.

In New York, about 2,700 Police officer Were absent earlier this week – more than twice the number of people who got sick on an average day. In Seattle, the police force is reduced to about 300 officers from its normal force of 1,350, according to officer Mike Solan, who leads the city’s police union.

“It’s difficult for our community because they are waiting for that call for help,” Solan said. “And then we’re at risk because we don’t have the proper secure numbers for a safe work environment when we answer that call for help.”

retail on line

Many small businesses such as nail salons, restaurants, stores and event spaces are set to take a hit if the situation worsens. has happened before decrease in working hours According to an analysis by Homebase, a software provider for small and medium-sized businesses in the leisure and hospitality industries.

10 US counties most dependent on tourism—one group that includes Anaheim, California; Orlando Florida; New York; And Washington, D.C. — worked 25% fewer hours last week, Jason Greenberg, Homebase’s chief economist, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Omicron fears economic downturn


In New York, more than 30 restaurants suddenly closed last week after employees and patrons tested positive for the virus, and the closures also affected the Bay Area, Chicago and Houston.

Company co-owner David Lockwood said Trophy Brewing in Raleigh, North Carolina, cut its operating hours and decided to close three of the four business locations on New Year’s Eve. In Washington, D.C., Dogma Daycare and Boarding for Dogs said this week it was canceling full day care until January 3 because several staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

more work and less pay

The decision to close a business—or to call off work sick for an employee—is a difficult season that has historically been a big money maker for eateries and retail stores.

While some service workers have seen annual wage increases amid labor shortages, and some states and cities have offered bonuses to frontline workers, nearly all of them have received wage benefits. Rising inflation ate,

Most cooks, bartenders and grocery workers who fall ill or have to quarantine will lose money because about two-thirds of them do not have paid sick leave.

“Really, retail workers don’t have many options,” says Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. said “good Morning America.” “A day off is 20% of their income, and many of them — depending on the wages they’re making — can’t afford to do that.”

Harvard University professor Daniel Schneider, focusing on low-income workers, said the public should keep in mind that essential workers do not have the luxury of working from home, as some Americans do.

“White-collar workers need to appreciate the real risks that these people take,” he told the AP. “You can’t get groceries from home. You can’t stock shelves from home.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting.


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