At least 6,000 flights canceled over Christmas weekend as omicron rocks airline staffing. Major airlines canceled more than 2,600 flights on Sunday, capping off a Christmas weekend that saw at least 6,000 cancellations and tens of thousands of delays worldwide as airlines faced severe staffing challenges during a surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the omicron variant.
As of 4:30 p.m., at least 2,671 flights were canceled Sunday, according to the tracking website FlightAware, including more than 400 by Delta, 112 by JetBlue and 110 by United. Those are on top of 2,858 canceled on Christmas and hundreds more on Christmas Eve. More than 1,000 scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have already been scrapped.
On Sunday alone, 11,371 flights — including almost 4,000 into, or out of, the U.S. — have been delayed.
Several airlines pinned the scheduling mishaps on the pandemic, which has seen increased cases across the nation, particularly of the omicron variant. Poor weather in major hubs also played a role, some airlines said.
“The nationwide spike in omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” United said in a statement to the Associated Press. “As a result, we’ve unfortunately had to cancel some flights and are notifying impacted customers in advance of them coming to the airport.”
Delta apologized for the holiday travel upheaval in a statement.
“Delta people are working hard to get them to where they need to be as quickly and as safely as possible on the next available flight,” the airline said.
Delta told AP it had canceled the flights Friday because of the omicron variant and poor weather after it had “exhausted all options and resources — including rerouting and substitutions of aircraft and crews to cover scheduled flying.”
Flight cancelations have previously disrupted travel during the pandemic as COVID-19 protocols loosened and people steadily returned to the air just as airlines struggle to keep up with staffing and training.
The Transportation Security Administration said that it expects to screen 30 million people between Dec. 20 and Jan. 3.
In the last three weeks, the omicron variant has gone from being detected in a handful of states to becoming the dominant strain in the U.S. It now represents more than 70% of American COVID cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top infectious disease experts, said Sunday morning that case totals are likely to rise above the latest weekly average of 150,000.
State and federal officials have ramped up efforts to distribute more COVID-19 tests, get more people vaccinated and boosted, and expand capacity at health care facilities and testing sites.
Cases have steadily increased in Massachusetts, New England and throughout the U.S. for several weeks, but vaccinations and boosters have kept severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths down compared to last year.
Health officials still expect omicron and holiday travel to bring a significant surge this winter. Massachusetts on Friday reported more than 10,000 new cases in a single day for the first time over the two-year pandemic.
The Biden administration recently announced plans to deploy 1,000 military medical personnel to support hospital staffing as cases spike. The administration also plans to buy 500 million rapid at-home COVID-19 tests that Americans can order for free by January.
Fauci said the steps are geared to “make sure, given the rapid spread of this extraordinary variant, that we don’t get an overrun on hospitals, particularly in regions in which you have a larger portion of unvaccinated individuals.”
Worcester police detectives are investigating the shooting of a 29-year-old man who suffered potentially life-threatening injuries at an after-hours party on Christmas morning.
Officers responded to a Webster Street address shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday and found a male victim with several gunshot wounds.
The Worcester Police Department, in a Facebook post, described the scene as a party. Officers provided medical aid until an EMS unit arrived and transported the gunshot victim to the hospital. Authorities said the injuries appear to be life-threatening.
The victim’s name has not been released and detectives say the investigation remains ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to call (508) 799-8651, or to send an anonymous text to 274637 or an anonymous message via worcesterma.gov/police.
Three-quarters of unvaccinated Americans who voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 say they’ll never get any dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a recent poll from The Economist and YouGov suggests.
The survey of about 1,500 adults showed 75% of Trump voters — despite the former president’s recent public support for vaccinations and the booster shot — say they “do not plan on ever getting any shots of any COVID-19 vaccine.”
Of those who remain unvaccinated and backed Biden, 51% said they’ll continue to refuse vaccination. But Biden voters say they’re more open to changing course: 35% told pollsters they “might” get a vaccine shot one day, compared to just 12% of unvaccinated Trump supporters.
The poll comes amid an ongoing surge this holiday season as state and federal officials ramp up efforts to distribute more COVID-19 tests, get more people vaccinated and boosted, and expand capacity at health care facilities and testing sites.
The survey also comes after Trump, in appearances with conservative talk show hosts, touted vaccine development during his final year in office and described the vaccines as effective in preventing illness and death. Trump’s recent acknowledgement that he is boosted, to former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, prompted boos from some of his supporters in the audience.