Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today
The anxiety of returning to the office
When companies began announcing plans to return to the office this spring, there was a sense of optimism as cases of the virus subsided and the vaccine rollout intensified.
But after a wave of the highly contagious Delta variant, the tone suddenly changed.
“Companies are starting to let go of their plans to return to the office,” said Lauren Hirsch, who covers business for The Times.
Google today pushed back its official return to office date to mid-October from September. Apple recently announced a similar delay. Asana, a software company, has gone even further, pushing back its return date for all employees in San Francisco and New York to February 1 at the earliest, a person familiar with the situation said.
The CDC’s new masking guidelines further complicate return-to-office plans. Executives are also wondering whether to institute vaccination warrants for returning employees.
“A lot of CEOs and executives I spoke with want to be able to mandate, but they are afraid of the legal and political repercussions, even though the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said it is allowed.” Lauren said.
However, that too can change.
President Biden will officially announce tomorrow that all federal civilian employees must be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, said two people familiar with the president’s plans. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York City today said state officials must be vaccinated or tested weekly, following similar decisions in New York and California. Perhaps most important for the private sector is Google’s announcement today that returning employees should be vaccinated.
“It’s a really big deal, and I wonder if this isn’t the start of a tidal wave,” Lauren said. “No company likes to be the trailblazer, so Google just offered cover for others to follow suit.”
Workers are also slowing down the return to normalcy in the workplace. Those who already work in person say they are increasingly anxious as employers relax security protocols. Remote working has also created a generational gap between younger workers who valued flexibility and older managers who favor the office. Other workers complain both about the return to the office and the lack of vaccination mandates from the employer.
“They say, ‘not only do we think we don’t need to be in the office to be productive, but now we think you are putting us at risk,” Lauren said.
The return of the mask war?
CDC officials have said Americans should wear masks in indoor public spaces in areas of the country that have recorded more than 50 new infections per 100,000 population in the previous week, or where more than 8% of tests are positive for infection during this period.
According to these criteria, all residents of Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana and New York, as well as 96% of Californians, for example, should wear masks indoors. Almost two-thirds of US counties are eligible, with many of them concentrated in the South.
But after months of economic shutdowns, those trying to get people to wear face coverings again in the midst of a long, hot summer are facing mistrust and hostility.
Several Republican governors – including Greg Abbott of Texas, Doug Ducey of Arizona, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Kim Reynolds of Iowa and Brian Kemp of Georgia – have signaled their opposition to the recommendation. Since the start of the pandemic, nine states (Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) have banned or limited face mask warrants, leaving localities with few options for fight against the spread of the virus.
Responding to news that the US House of Representatives will once again require all lawmakers and staff to wear masks indoors, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and Minority Leader, wrote on Twitter: “Make no mistake, the threat to bring back masks is not a decision based on science, but a decision evoked by representatives of the Liberal government who want to continue living in a state of perpetual pandemic. “
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What do you do
I have been fully vaccinated for a few months now. The vaccinated life was really liberating at first. I have to admit, grocery shopping without a mask was liberating. We were even able to travel to New York this summer. It was like 2019. But now, with the increase in cases in our condition, I’m afraid we may go back to 2020. Tonight I learned that another unvaccinated member of my family had contracted Covid. After this news, my dad and I tried to encourage skeptical family members to trust the vaccine, but what people don’t understand is that it’s almost impossible to change someone’s mind. ‘one who is determined not to get the vaccine. I am frustrated, worried, angry. This pandemic was once out of our control, but now we have a way out and we are not taking it.
– Stacy Allen, Alabama
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