Over 1,100 flights were canceled on Friday due to unprecedented levels of Covid-19 cases. The highly transmissible Omicron variant has set records for daily infection rates in the past week, causing more than 9,000 flights from the United States to be canceled since Christmas Eve.
Southwestern Airlines has pointed to severe winter weather as one of the causes for flight cancellations and delays. But other airlines have also acknowledged that Omicron is causing a shortage of staff nationwide.
Johns Hopkins University reported that there were over 1.8 million new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. in the past 7 days.
“It’s tough enough to travel in the winter just because of bad weather, but Covid and the Omicron variant are introducing new wrinkles that none of us had anticipated,” said independent travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt. “Airlines have only so many of those standby crew members available.”
U.S. hits record high Covid-19 cases
The United States reached a record high of daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday. The country recorded a seven-day average of over 282,000 cases as the Omicron variant has begun to dominate in all 50 states.
Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 database reported on Wednesday morning that the seven-day average for positive cases had surpassed 282,117. This constitutes a new record for the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. The previous high was 250,000, set almost a year ago, after the holiday surge, on January 11, 2021.
The striking figure had been expected after the US recorded an astounding half a million new infections on Monday.
“The rapid increase of cases we are seeing across the country is in large part a reflection of the exceptionally transmissible omicron variant,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said to the press during a White House briefing.
“We expect (omicron) will continue to circulate in the coming weeks,” she added.
CDC shortens quarantine
The alarming surge in cases comes amidst the CDC’s decision to shorten infection isolation time. Federal health officials announced on Monday that their new recommendation is to isolate for five days instead of ten.
The updated recommendation comes as the Omicron variant surges across the country, setting records for new infections per day.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, said that the new guidelines “balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”
The seven-day national average for new daily cases shot past 214,000 on Sunday -– representing an 83% increase in two weeks.
President Joe Biden held a conference call with the country’s governors on Monday where he plainly stated that:
“There is no federal solution,” adding that “This gets solved at the state level.”
“Ultimately it gets down to where the rubber meets the road, and that’s where the patient is in need of help or preventing the need for help.”