According to Andy Slavitt, a former senior pandemic adviser to President Joe Biden, the Omicron coronavirus variant will cause a “winter wave” that will complicate the return of workers to offices in the United States.
Scientists are still researching the characteristics of Omicron, but preliminary research suggests that symptoms may be less severe, despite the fact that the new variant may spread more quickly.
“The issue with Omicron is that hotspots will be easier to create,” Slavitt explained. “What was once two or three people getting Covid in the office will now be 15 or 30 people getting Covid.”
That’s why Slavitt, who resigned from Biden’s Covid-19 response team in June, advised CEOs to reconsider office reopening plans.
“If I’m an employer with the option of having people work virtually, I’m going to take that,” he said, adding that not every company “has that luxury.” Fidelity announced Friday that it is halting return-to-office pilots in New England due to rising Covid risk scores, affecting several hundred employees. Ford Motor Company recently pushed back its return-to-work date to March due to concerns about the pandemic’s progress.
After dozens of employees tested positive for Covid-19, Wall Street bank Jefferies asked employees to work from home last week and canceled almost all travel and social events.
In light of the Omicron variant, Slavitt believes CEOs should require employees to get boosters.
“Omicron has undoubtedly turned this into a three-dose vaccine, if it wasn’t already,” he said. “Two doses aren’t going to be enough any longer.”
Pfizer announced last week that preliminary research indicates that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may not provide adequate protection against Omicron, but three doses may be more effective in neutralizing it. According to other studies, even people who have had their immune systems boosted can become infected.
“Everyone should be boosted. If everyone is boosted, you have the best chance of getting everyone back “Slavitt was speaking about how business leaders should approach back-to-work plans.
According to Jefferies, anyone who wishes to run for office or attend an event must have their booster administered by January 31, unless they are not yet eligible.
In recent days, some sports leagues have been hit with Covid-19 cases.
The Premier League of England announced on Monday that it will implement Covid-19 emergency measures due to a significant increase in cases within the league. The Chicago Bulls’ season was halted by the NBA on Monday after ten players and additional staff members entered the league’s Covid-19 protocols. The Calgary Flames’ next three games have been postponed by the NHL due to six players and one staff member being in the league’s Covid-19 protocol. Slavitt urged businesses to invest in good ventilation as well as regular at-home instant tests for key events when employees return.
“If there is a major outbreak, you must reopen. The problem is that if this thing is really spreading, it’s difficult to police every weak link “Slavitt explained. “Simply saying, ‘I want my people together but am unwilling to do anything to make it safe,’ is irresponsible and will not end well.”
When asked to rate his level of concern about Omicron on a scale of 1 to 10, Slavitt said he’s only 2 or 3 concerned about people who have been boosted and in communities where there are a lot of boosters.
However, in communities where fewer people have been vaccinated, this rises to a 6 or 7. The good news is that Slavitt, a Harvard Business School MBA, isn’t too concerned about how disruptive Omicron will be to the economic recovery. This is despite concerns that the variant will put additional strain on global supply chains.
Of course, Omicron will be received differently in different parts of the country.
“There’s a split personality in how people react,” Slavitt said. “Ron DeSantis will most likely enter ICU wards without a mask. People in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, California, and the Pacific Northwest, on the other hand, will be more cautious.”
JPMorgan issued an optimistic forecast on Covid last week, predicting that next year will see a “full global recovery, an end to the global pandemic, and a return to normal conditions we had prior to the Covid.19 outbreak.” Asked if JPMorgan is right to say 2022 will be the year the pandemic ends, Slavitt said no.