What’s up? (December 26-January 1)
Waiting for a flight
It was a bad week for anyone with a flight to catch. With staff shortages in part due to the spread of the Omicron variant, many airlines began canceling flights on Christmas Eve, and cancellations continued through the week between Christmas and New Years. The airlines bear some of the blame. While they had started to fill the ranks that thinned at the start of the pandemic, they have yet to reestablish their pre-pandemic workforce. Even with all the cancellations, the airports were busier than they have been since the start of the pandemic. But the number of people screened at airport security checkpoints around Christmas was still down 18% from a comparable period in 2019, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
A change for sick workers
In an effort to alleviate some of the staff shortages affecting airlines, retailers and other industries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said some infected Americans could leave isolation after five days, half as many as the previous recommendation. The agency cited science showing that the coronavirus is most contagious one to two days before an infected person develops symptoms and two to three days after. Some unions have expressed concern that workers may be forced to come to work sick, especially those whose employers do not provide paid sick leave.
Waiting for a verdict
After the nearly four-month trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, jurors have ended a sixth day of deliberations, with no indication of when they could return with a verdict. Their return is scheduled for Monday. The key question before the jury is whether to believe the prosecution’s argument that Ms Holmes “chose fraud over business failure” or whether Ms Holmes acted in good faith – that she believed in his startup’s blood testing technology and that its failures were not the result of malicious intent.
And after? (January 2-8)
Back to Wall Street. One day.
One of the most consistent themes of 2021 was that companies were setting dates for workers to return to the office only for the dates to be postponed and rescheduled. Wall Street banks were a notable exception, until Omicron and a wave of cases in New York City led many banks to tell employees who worked in the office to come home. Goldman Sachs, however, has stepped up its vaccine and testing requirements instead of sending employees home. It has announced plans to test workers on-site twice a week starting January 10 and mandate recalls for eligible employees starting February 1. complicated their plans. The U.S. Supreme Court is due to hear arguments over the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate on Friday.
New year, same inflation
As we head into a new year, inflation continues to rock the American consumer. With the price hike coming along with the spread of another variant of the coronavirus, economic recovery is no longer certain, with many events canceled and sites closed. The misconception that inflation will be short-lived and subside as factories reopen and supply chain issues are resolved seems less and less likely. The Federal Reserve, which has supported the economy since the start of the pandemic, has signaled that it will withdraw some of that support in 2022 and that it may raise interest rates several times next year in an attempt to calm inflation.
New Year, New Treatments
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved two new treatments for Covid-19, from Pfizer and Merck, although both are reserved for people at high risk. Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill, Paxlovid, is approved for patients 12 years of age and older with medical conditions that put them at a higher risk of serious illness or for patients who are vulnerable due to their age. Merck’s treatment, molnupiravir, is approved for vulnerable adults who have no other treatment options. Although the Pfizer pill appears to be more effective than the Merck pill, it is likely that the Pfizer treatment will be more difficult to obtain. The company, which has seen huge success with its vaccine, is expected to deliver enough Paxlovid pills to 265,000 Americans by the end of January.
Ghislaine Maxwell has been convicted of conspiring with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to recruit, prepare and sexually assault underage girls. Apple has closed about 20 of its retail stores after a wave of Covid-19 cases among employees left stores unsafe and understaffed. And supply chain problems have arrived at the nursery.