A snapshot of what’s in the news for the week of December 6, 2021.
Omicron Variant: It looks like Delta has some competition as the newest strain of COVID, Omicron, has hit the States. The news broke over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and the first case of the variant was reported in California last week with many other states quickly following. World leaders are taking notice and trying to hinder the spread, with many imposing additional restrictions on travel (especially from many southern countries on the African continent where the variant was first discovered). Associations across the travel spectrum have voiced their concerns just as restrictions on international travel were loosening. Although time will tell how virulent or deadly this strain will become, one thing is for sure: we’re all getting a lesson on the Greek alphabet.
Mask Mandates Extended on Transportation Through March 2022: The Biden administration has extended the federal mask mandate for all travelers on airplanes, ships, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares and at transportation hubs such as airports until March 18, 2022. It was previously extended this past August to mid-January 2022, but was revised with the Omicron variant ready to make its way through the States just in time for winter. Due to the rising and troubling number of assaults and batteries from frustrated and combative travelers, fines for not wearing a mask were doubled in late summer, with first offenses now clocking in at $500 and repeat offenders facing possible fines up to $3,000.
Job Numbers: It was a disappointing jobs report last week as the US economy added 210,000 jobs in November, fewer than half of what economists expected and the slowest job creation month in 2021. Leisure and hospitality, which was leading the job recovery this year after being the hardest-hit sector during the pandemic, fell from the ultimate position for an essentially flat month. Instead, jobs in transportation (trucking) and warehousing captured the top spot—which probably isn’t a bad thing considering the issues in the supply chain. One off month isn’t cause for panic, so we’ll find out how well the holiday season was for the economy in early January.
NYC Vaccine Mandate: Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio isn’t leaving the Big Apple with a whimper. In what has been called a first for the nation, the mayor of the country’s largest city—and the epicenter of the pandemic throughout 2020—has announced that all employees of private businesses will be required to have at least one shot of the COVID vaccine by December 27. The mandate was already in place for city employees and health care workers, and there won’t be an option for testing over vaccine. Guidance is expected to be released by the mayor’s office by December 15. Of course, everyone is under the gun as employees were given just three weeks to get into compliance and businesses scramble during the remaining days of the year. De Blasio cites the new variant as the reason for his strict measure, although it’s unclear if incoming mayor Eric Adams (who assumes the role on January 1) will continue with the mandate.
Further, the city will require children aged 5-11 to show proof of one vaccination dose in order to enter fitness, indoor dining, entertainment, and performance venues starting December 14. New Yorkers aged 12 and older will be required to show proof of two vaccine doses, instead of one, except for those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, starting December 27.