More than 7,300 flights were delayed or canceled across the nation Sunday amid the latest omicron-driven coronavirus surge.
About 1,400 flights entering, leaving or flying within the United States were canceled and about 5,900 were delayed Sunday, according to the tracking website FlightAware. More than 4,000 flights were delayed or canceled Christmas Day as days of scheduling nightmares left holiday travelers scrambling.
Delta, United and JetBlue have blamed the omicron variant for staffing problems that led to flight cancellations. “This was unexpected,” United spokesperson Maddie King said of omicron’s impact on staffing.
Flight delays and cancellations have been a recurring theme this year as airlines have ramped up schedules. Thousands of workers were driven from the industry last year when air travel collapsed, and staffing has not kept up with the resurgence in demand.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” he supports a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel. But, he said, wearing a mask with proper filtration should keep air travelers reasonably safe.
Such a mandate would be another “mechanism that would spur them to get vaccinated,” he said. “Anything that could get people more vaccinated would be welcome.”
controversy among some staff, but it’s not yet required of most domestic passengers. International travelers entering the United States must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within a day of their departure.
Also in the news:
► Even with testing and reporting interrupted by the Christmas holiday, the United States’ case counts grew – 1.29 million in a week, or an average of about 184,000 per day, Johns Hopkins University data shows. Hospitalizations were up and deaths rose slightly, to an average of over 1,300 per day.
► Vice President Kamala Harris declined to blame the unvaccinated for the latest surge. “But it is clear that everyone has the ability to make a choice to save their lives and to prevent hospitalization if they get vaccinated and if they get the booster,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
► Mastercard SpendingPulse reported Sunday that U.S. holiday sales rose 8.5% from a year earlier, the biggest annual gain in 17 years. The results cover Nov. 1 through Dec. 24.
► Vermont Everyone Eats, a food assistance program helping state residents, restaurants and farmers get through the pandemic, has been extended through April 1.
► France has recorded more than 100,000 virus infections in a single day for the first time since the pandemic struck. COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled over the past month.
► More than 160 nonprofits in Rhode Island are sharing $5.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for housing, behavioral health services, health care, job training, food pantries and child care for those hardest hit by the pandemic.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 52 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 816,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 279.9 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 204 million Americans – 61.7% – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: The omicron variant has thrown America’s great return to the office into disarray, perhaps for months. Many companies who had notified employees they would need to come back to the office at least part-time early next year have pushed back those plans or are considering doing so. Read more.
Some states report jumps in hospitalizations
The latest wave of COVID-19 is pounding hospitals in some parts of the country, according to Department of Health and Human Services data reported Sunday.
Washington, D.C., reported 77% more COVID-19 patients in hospital beds, and 42% more in intensive-care beds, than a week earlier.
Florida’s hospital admissions are up 64%. Hawaii’s are up 44%.
And in Louisiana, COVID-19 hospitalizations doubled in the last week. The Louisiana Department of Health said 449 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Sunday. That’s the highest since mid-October, which at the time was the state’s worst surge.
Statewide, 80% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated, the health department reported.
But the wave is moving unevenly across the country. Nearly half of the states report lower COVID-19 admissions and fewer people in ICU beds.
The “extraordinarily contagious” omicron variant will continue to drive daily coronavirus infections higher across the nation, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday.
“Every day it goes up and up. The last weekly average was about 150,000 (per day) and it likely will go much higher,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week.”
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser warned that while studies show omicron is less severe in terms of hospitalizations, more cases still could overwhelm hospitals. He defended the administration’s efforts to provide more tests amid a shortage, and said he wished he had thought about ordering 500 million at-home tests two months ago.
Fenway Bowl, Military Bowl shelved as surge cripples college football
The Fenway Bowl and the Military Bowl were canceled due to the pandemic on Sunday as coronavirus outbreaks at the University of Virginia and Boston College forced the schools to call off postseason plans. The game, scheduled Wednesday at Fenway Park in Boston, was to pit the Cavaliers against Southern Methodist University. The Military Bowl, scheduled Monday in Annapolis, Maryland, between Boston College and East Carolina University, was canceled because of positive COVID-19 tests at BC.
“This is not the way we wanted to see this season come to an end,” BC coach Jeff Hafley said. “We just do not have enough players to safely play a game.”
The Hawaii Bowl was canceled last week after Hawaii withdrew from the game against the University of Memphis. And Rutgers will replace Texas A&M in the Gator Bowl against Wake Forest on New Year’s Eve after the Aggies pulled out because of a lack of available players.
Florida hit a record in the pandemic for the second day in a row, with 32,850 new cases reported Saturday. The 31,758 cases reported Friday had broken the state’s previous record of more than 27,000, set in August during the height of the delta wave. The current surg