With the omicron variant tearing through the U.S., there are growing signs of disruption and shutdowns similar to those that accompanied the alpha variant wave triggered by the original coronavirus breakout.
The 64th Grammy Awards have been postponed, the Sundance Film Festival has canceled in-person events and the Chicago Teachers Union voted to temporarily transition to remote learning, prompting Chicago Public Schools officials, who oppose the move, to cancel classes on Jan. 5.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which represents staff in the country’s third-largest school district, argues that the district’s safety protocols are insufficient and teachers and students are vulnerable, NBC Chicago reported. Public school officials reject a districtwide return to remote learning, saying it was disastrous last time around for children’s education and mental health. They are accusing teachers of “illegal work stoppage.”
“This decision was made with a heavy heart and a singular focus on student and community safety,” the teachers union said in a statement; 73 percent of union members called for remote instruction until “cases substantially subside.”
School districts around the U.S. are dealing with the same issue, and most are opting to stay open, AP News reported.
The most prestigious music awards, the Grammys will not take place Jan. 31 in Los Angeles as planned, with a future date yet to be announced, Los Angeles Times reported.
“The health and safety of those in our music community, the live audience, and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly to produce our show remains our top priority,” the Recording Academy and its TV partner CBS said in a joint statement.
The postponement is the second year in a row that the Grammys have been delayed because of covid-19. In 2021, the show was scheduled to take place Jan. 31 but was moved to March 14. Comedian Trevor Noah of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” is set to host again this year.
The Sundance Film Festival, scheduled in person later this month in Park City, Utah, will instead be held mostly virtually for the second year in a row.
“We do not believe it is safe nor feasible to gather thousands of artists, audiences, employees, volunteers, and partners from around the world, for an eleven-day festival while overwhelmed communities are already struggling to provide essential services,” festival organizers said a statement.
“The undue stress to Summit County’s health services and our more than 1,500 staff and volunteers would be irresponsible in this climate,” the film festival continued. “It has become increasingly clear over the last few days that this is the right decision to make for the care and well-being of all of our community.”
Film festival screenings scheduled at seven satellite locations around the country will move ahead as planned, local conditions permitting.
One million new covid cases were reported on Monday alone, more than twice the previous record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Despite the raging spread of omicron, President Joe Biden on Jan. 4 urged school districts and local governments to do everything they can to keep schools open for in-person learning.
Cases are rising among the fully vaccinated, but Biden stressed that most of the seriously ill or dying from covid are unvaccinated.
“You can still get covid, but it’s very unlikely you will get seriously ill,” Biden said. “Be concerned, but don’t be alarmed [unless] you’re unvaccinated.”
The U.S. never had a nationwide lockdown as other countries did, The Hill reported. Even during the height of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, governors made their own state-by-state decisions about the severity of restrictions to enact.
“This moment is much different than March 2020. We have tools to keep people safe and will continue using them to do so,” White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said during a December White House briefing.
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