Boston Globe: Omicron whips through the workforce, pushing overstretched staffs to the brink

By Katie Johnston
Boston Globe, Jan 8, 2022

As Omicron whips through the workforce, caregiving agencies are turning away new patients. Restaurants are shutting down. Construction jobs are being delayed. Retailers, including Macy’s, are limiting hours. ... In Massachusetts, 12,213 public school staff members — nearly 9 percent — tested positive over the two-week period ending Wednesday. ...

“In the last two weeks, it feels like the game has definitely changed,” said Emily Kanter, co-owner of Cambridge Naturals, which started closing its stores in Cambridge and Boston early due to a surge of exposed employees stuck at home. “There’s also just the persistent dread of: What’s going to happen tomorrow? Who’s going to need to call out? What procedures are we going to need to implement? What memo am I going to have to write to the team and to our customers to help everyone feel safe?”

The difficulty of getting tested is further hampering people’s ability to return to work. ...

The Omicron surge is far from the worst thing some employers have had to deal with over the past two years. Boloco cofounder John Pepper was days from closing down his Mexican-food chain for good in the summer of 2020 when he found a way to keep the lights on in six of eight locations. But given the number of employees calling out because of positive COVID tests or exposure — 12 out of 50 since Christmas, as of late last week ... Pepper is temporarily closing one of his struggling Financial District stores. He’s also considering dropping labor-intensive smoothies from the menu.

“You just put the pieces together and fight another month,” he said. ...

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