Airlines around the world have canceled more than 3,500 flights on Christmas Eve and Christmas as a result of rising Omicron cases, The New York Times reports.
The number of flights is relatively small compared to the 80,000 flights on any given day but underscores the growing disruption caused by a fast-spreading variant.
United Airlines canceled 176 of its 4,000 flights on Friday, mostly as a result of crew members calling in sick. At least 44 Saturday flights have already been scrapped as well.
Delta has canceled 158 of its 3,100 flights on Friday, saying it is exhausting “all options and resources,” including rerouting and changing planes and crews. The airline blamed the cancelations on “a combination of issues,” including weather and Omicron. The airline plans at least 150 more cancellations over the weekend.
Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, and Allegiant have all scrapped some flights as well.
Omicron on the rise:
The US recorded nearly 187,000 new cases per day over the last two weeks as Omicron continues to spread.
Smaller airlines have been hit hard as well.
“A large number of our frontline team members are being required to test and isolate as close contacts given the increasing number of cases in the general community,” a spokesperson for the Australian airline Jetstar Airways told the Times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responded to similar shortages at hospitals and health care facilities on Thursday, lowering the number of days health care workers with symptomatic Covid infections have to isolate.
The United Kingdom this week lowered the isolation period for all workers from 10 days to seven days.
Hospital shortages worsen:
Shortages have particularly been worrisome in the health care space, which lost 450,000 workers since February 2020, according to CNBC.
Though Omicron is less severe than previous variants, it can dodge immunity and reinfect people who have already been sick or vaccinated. Even asymptomatic cases require a seven-day isolation period by the CDC.
Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the president of the University Hospital in Newark, NJ, told CNBC that “if that trend continues we will be in a very difficult position and we will have to move into crisis staffing.”
“The real problem is everybody’s tired,” added Betty Jo Rocchio, chief nursing officer at Mercy health system. “Everybody is mentally, physically and emotionally worn out from dealing with the impact of Covid.”