Another new year under COVID-19 has arrived, and it’s being marked by widespread workforce impacts as the omicron variant continues to fuel a surge of new infections.

Some schools across Massachusetts opened late or remained closed Monday, the first day following the winter break, citing either a lack of available staff or a need for time to assess the outlook after state-secured test kits arrived late.

Meanwhile, as many Bay Staters returned from holiday travel, airlines across the country delayed or canceled flights in response to a perilous combination of bad weather and employee shortages.

While the Baker administration continues to push to keep as many schools open as possible, other parts of government are once again turning to remote work in an effort to mitigate omicron’s spread. Many Trial Court proceedings will take place virtually starting Monday, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu instructed some employees to work from home for the next two weeks.

Widespread vaccinations have helped limit the frequency of severe illness and deaths, but cases and hospitalizations have been increasing rapidly since the omicron variant burst onto the scene roughly a month ago.

The Department of Public Health reported 79,908 newly confirmed cases in the week ending Dec. 31, up from 46,147 in the week ending Dec. 24 and 32,478 in the week ending Dec. 17. Those figures only capture a portion of the virus’s impact, too.

Medical experts continue to stress that booster shots are a vital defense against omicron, warning that the standard two-dose Moderna or Pfizer or single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccines are less effective against the new variant.

That protection will soon become available to pre-teens and younger teenagers after federal officials greenlit the Pfizer booster shot for those between the ages of 12 and 15. 

(Copyright (c) 2022 State House News Service.

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox