This year’s start may be uncomfortably similar with 2021’s, with rising coronavirus cases, event cancellations, and companies revising their return to office plans. But in 2022, there are important differences in the path of the pandemic — and the policy response to it.
“We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science,” Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said recently.
Although highly contagious the Omicron variant of coronavirus is more severe than previous strains, it is not as contagious. As the government pushes to keep the U.S. economy open despite record cases — but rates of lower hospitalizations and deaths — it raises new questions for businesses preparing for a third year of the pandemic.
There are changes in government policies. Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that it was “much more relevant” to focus on Covid hospitalizations instead of total cases, because many infections were asymptomatic, and he was more worried about potential strains on hospital systems.
The C.D.C. The C.D.C. has halved the recommended isolation time to treat asymptomatic infections to 5 days from 10. This was criticized (and inspired memes), but Dr. Fauci suggested that the agency might revise its guidelines again.
And the Biden administration is signaling that it may change the definition of “fully vaccinated” to require booster shots, a prospect that could affect what 140 million Americans can and can’t do in public.
This leaves companies with many options. Some companies, such as Goldman Sachs are changing their vaccination policies. Beginning February 1, Wall Street Bank will require all employees and visitors to its offices to receive a booster shot.
Employers will also have to rethink their policies in order to quickly bring infected employees back to work. Testing is the next big issue. The Biden administration is trying to increase supply in times of shortages.
Large companies have bought tests in bulk to give to their employees. However, smaller businesses may not have the same resources. Many boards will face challenges in the months ahead, including deciding who to prioritize for tests and who pays for them.
Source: NY Times