Omicron forces another change
The World Economic Forum said this morning that it was postponing its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, from next month to “early summer,” citing the spread of the Omicron variant. The move suggests new uncertainties for business travel, yet another headache for C.E.O.s amid rising case counts and new questions about government efforts to contain the coronavirus. Meanwhile, U.S. stock futures are down sharply, following European and Asian markets.
Many businesses are becoming increasingly cautious. The World Economic Forum, after consulting with experts and the Swiss government, said it will instead hold virtual sessions next month. (Travel, business and otherwise, faces new pressures: Israel added the U.S. to its no-fly list, while the N.H.L. called off games involving cross-border travel until after Christmas.) In other developments:
The fate of a federal vaccine mandate for large companies became cloudier. On Friday, a federal appeals court lifted a legal block on the rule, though appeals to the Supreme Court were immediately filed. The next day, OSHA pushed back the deadline for full enforcement of the rule until February.
Another matter that may become more confusing is what counts as “fully vaccinated.” While the Labor Department doesn’t currently require booster shots as part of its rule for large companies, it is strongly encouraging them. Some local authorities, like New York City, have already said they plan to change the definition of fully vaccinated to include boosters, as are companies like Jefferies. On the other hand, the Olympics isn’t mandating boosters for athletes. Douglas Brayley, an employment lawyer at the law firm Ropes & Gray, suggested that companies are increasingly facing a difficult choice: “I wonder if there’s some reluctance to go back to people who they already had to cajole into getting the vaccine, ‘Oh, and by the way, please get one more shot.’”
Other challenges lie ahead. The spike in Omicron cases is straining America’s testing capacity, making it harder for employers who want to make regular Covid checks part of their office protocol. In Britain, the country’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, wouldn’t rule out further restrictions before Christmas.