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The COVID-19 pandemic is once again upending holiday plans around the world, from halting air travel to scaling back festive celebrations. All this as new infections in the U.S. have spiked 55 percent in the last two weeks alone, largely due to the highly contagious omicron variant. Stephanie Sy has our report.
The COVID-19 pandemic is once again upending holiday plans around the world, from halting air travel, to scaling back festive celebrations, all this as new infections in the U.S. have spiked 55 percent in the last two weeks alone, largely due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Stephanie Sy has our report.
COVID continues to spread holiday misery. Last-minute flight cancellations left thousands of travelers reeling on Christmas Eve.
Affected airlines blamed the situation on the impact of Omicron, with Delta and United at least partially attributing cancellations to flight crews calling in sick with the virus.
Globally, more than 3,000 flights were canceled, with international airlines also citing falling demand as a factor.
Debbie Gibson, Traveler:
The reason that our flight was canceled was because of a lack of flight attendants, so — yes, on Delta. So, I guess it it's sad.
To ease the staffing crunch, U.S. airlines are pressuring the CDC to shorten quarantine time for fully vaccinated airline staff to five days, down from 10.
The rapidly spreading Omicron COVID variant is taking a toll on work forces everywhere, including grocery stores, police departments, and hospitals. For health care workers, the CDC is recommending shortening the quarantine time to seven days, as long as workers are asymptomatic and test negative before returning to the job.
Daily cases have more than doubled in the last three weeks, and staffing disruptions are only adding to the strain on the health system.
Jahmaal Willis, Emergency Department Nurse:
We're overly exhausted, and it's starting to look like last year at this time right now. You know, it's starting to remind me of last year. It's kind of a PTSD situation.
Calls are growing for shorter COVID-19 isolation periods more broadly, but, today, President Biden said it was too soon to change the guidance.
Joe Biden, President of the United States: Well, I just listen to my team, the docs, and they think we should keep it the way it is for now.
Meanwhile, the White House today announced it will lift Omicron-related travel bans on eight African countries at the end of the month. The policy was criticized for being ineffective and discriminatory, and Omicron now accounts for more than 70 percent of new COVID infections in the U.S.
The variant has also spread around the world. That hasn't stopped some Christmas celebrations from forging ahead with restrictions.
In the town of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, a second year of subdued celebration took place under gloomy skies. It was a local affair. Israel is trying to buy time to fight Omicron and has largely closed its borders to the international travelers that usually flock to Manger Square to mark the origin of Christmas.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.
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Stephanie Sy is a PBS NewsHour correspondent and serves as anchor of PBS NewsHour West. Throughout her career, she served in anchor and correspondent capacities for ABC News, Al Jazeera America, CBSN, CNN International, and PBS NewsHour Weekend. Prior to joining NewsHour, she was with Yahoo News where she anchored coverage of the 2018 Midterm Elections and reported from Donald Trump’s victory party on Election Day 2016.
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