As Daily US COVID Cases Exceed 1 Million, These Stores Cut Paid Leave and Hours
Daily COVID-19 cases reached 1 million in the United States this week as the omicron variant spreads through almost every state, and businesses — as well as governments — are feeling the pressure. New York, California, Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa are among the nearly two-dozen states which have now declared a state of emergency over the omicron variant (see the full map and if your state is on the list here) as the country moves into 2022.
Despite the drastic measures, some retailers are cutting COVID-related paid leave in half. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cut isolation requirements last week for those with asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, Walmart is cutting paid leave in half, from two weeks to one week.
The CDC’s altered guidance includes cutting isolation restrictions for asymptomatic Americans who test positive for the coronavirus from 10 days to five days, and also shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine. The CDC issued the new guidance in accordance with new evidence that people who catch COVID are most infectious in the two days before, and three days after, symptoms develop.
Early research has suggested that the omicron variant causes less severe illness than previous forms of the disease, but the number of infections is so great — and the variant is spreading so rapidly — that systems throughout the country are threatened with shutdown regardless.
Big-box retailers are now responding as a result. In a memo sent to its employees earlier this week, Walmart said that through March 31 it will provide paid time off for employees who are mandated to quarantine by a health-care provider, government or Walmart — or if they fail a health screening or test positive for COVID-19, CNBC reports. It also said employees who qualify will be paid for one week instead of two.
The situation has worsened to the point that one store has already temporarily closed. Walmart has temporarily shuttered the doors of its supercenter in Aberdeen, Maryland, at 645. S. Philadelphia Boulevard for two days: for sanitizing of the store, and in order to assist health officials in reducing the spread of new infections.
Other retailers seem to be following suit, with Macy’s saying this week it would reduce hours across all its stores for the rest of the month. Apple has already closed stores in New York City amidst omicron surges, and Apple and Starbucks have already begun shuttering other locations as a result of widespread omicron cases.
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