For retail workers in the US, Omicron disruptions aren't just about health

12/1/2022 3:17:00 AM

For retail workers in the US, Omicron disruptions aren't just about health

A weary retail workforce is experiencing the fallout from the latest wave of the pandemic, with a rapidly spreading variant cutting into staffing."We had got to a point here where we were comfortable, it wasn't too bad, and then all of a sudden this new variant came and everybody got sick," said Ms Artavia Milliam, who works at H&M in Hudson Yards in Manhattan, which is popular with tourists."It's been overwhelming, just having to deal with not having enough staff and then twice as many people in the store."

Read more: ST Foreign Desk »

India to allow in imports of US pork and products, US officials say

US breaks Covid-19 hospitalisation record at over 132,000 as Omicron surgesWASHINGTON — Covid-19 hospitalisations in the United States (US) reached a record high on Monday (Jan 10), according to a Reuters tally, as a surge in infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant strains health systems in several states.

U.S. CDC may recommend better masks against Omicron - Washington PostThe agency will likely advise people opt for the highly protective N95 or KN95 masks worn by healthcare personnel, if they can do so consistently, the newspaper reported, citing an official close to the deliberations. The CDC guidance is expected to say that if people can 'tolerate wearing a KN95 or N95 mask all day, you should,' the report said. Last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walenksy told NBC News' 'Today' program the Omicron-driven surge in U.S. COVID-19 cases has likely not topped out yet.

US breaks Covid-19 hospitalisation record as Omicron surgesSo on Thursday a judge told the FDA to start releasing the Pfizer clinical trial results in a few weeks. This weekend CDC director coincidentally starts dropping truth bombs: “The overwhelming number of deaths, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four co-morbidities.”

In a first, India allows imports of US porkWASHINGTON — The United States (US) announced Monday (Jan 10) that India would allow imports of US pork and pork products for the first time, welcoming the removal of an old block on US farm trade.

US reclassifies S'pore Covid-19 travel alert from 'unknown' to 2nd-highest risk levelThe move follows MOH's engagement with the U.S. CDC. Show more data. Big brother lost patient... aiyah dont bother, here almost all vaccinated. there🤦‍♂️ Nabeh this gov only “flex” with its own ppl!

https://str.removing a longstanding barrier to US agricultural trade, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said on Monday (Jan 10).There were 132,646 people hospitalized with Covid, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year.People wear masks as they pass through a pedestrian subway as cases of the infectious coronavirus Delta variant continue to rise in New York City, New York (Reuters) -The U.

sg/wMEQ NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Long queues at the cash registers. Closed fitting rooms. Mr Vilsack said Washington was working to ensure the US pork industry could start shipping products to India as soon as possible. Empty shelves.S. Shortened store hours. In 2020, the United States was the world's third-largest pork producer and second-largest exporter, with global sales of pork and pork products valued at US$7. Plus the dread of contracting the coronavirus and yet another season of skirmishes with customers who refuse to wear masks. The United States reported at least 1.

A weary retail workforce is experiencing the fallout from the latest wave of the pandemic, with a rapidly spreading variant cutting into staffing.44 billion)., and Wisconsin have reported record levels of hospitalized Covid-19 patients recently, according to the Reuters analysis. While data shows that people infected with the Omicron variant are far less likely to be hospitalised than those with the delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated, many store workers are dealing with a new jump in illness and exposures, grappling with shifting guidelines around isolation and juggling child care. At the same time, retailers are generally not extending hazard pay as they did earlier in the pandemic and have been loath to adopt vaccine or testing mandates.6 billion of agricultural products to India. "We had got to a point here where we were comfortable, it wasn't too bad, and then all of a sudden this new variant came and everybody got sick," said Ms Artavia Milliam, who works at H&M in Hudson Yards in Manhattan, which is popular with tourists. The United States has averaged over a half a million cases for the last six consecutive days, according to a Reuters tally."It's been overwhelming, just having to deal with not having enough staff and then twice as many people in the store. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Joe Biden in Washington in September and both leaders agreed to expand trade ties to strengthen relations between the world's largest and richest democracies. (Reporting by Jahnavi Nidumolu in Bengaluru; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Christian Schmollinger) TRENDING.

" Ms Milliam, a member of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in the United States, is vaccinated but contracted the virus during the holidays, experiencing mild symptoms. She said that fewer employees were working registers and organising clothing and that her store had been closing the fitting rooms in the mornings because nobody was available to monitor them. More On This Topic.C. Macy's said last week that it would shorten store hours nationally on Mondays through Thursdays for the rest of the month. At least 20 Apple Stores have had to close in recent weeks because so many employees had contracted Covid-19 or been exposed to someone who had, and others have curtailed hours or limited in-store access. At a Macy's in Lynnwood, Washington, Ms Liisa Luick, a longtime sales associate in the men's department, said:"Every day, we have call-outs, and we have a lot of them. REUTERS Related topics.

" She said the store had already reduced staff to cut costs last year. Now, she is often unable to take breaks and has fielded complaints from customers about a lack of sales help and unstaffed registers. "Morale could not be lower," said Ms Luick, who is a steward for the local unit of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Even though Washington has a mask mandate for indoor public spaces,"we get a lot of pushback, so morale is even lower because there's so many people who, there's no easy way to say this, just don't believe in masking", she added. Store workers are navigating the changing nature of the virus and trying their best to gauge new risks.

Many say that with vaccinations and boosters, they are less fearful for their lives than they were last year - the United Food and Commercial Workers union has tracked more than 200 retail worker deaths since the start of the pandemic - but they remain nervous about catching and spreading the virus. At a Stop & Shop in Oyster Bay, New York, Mr Wally Waugh, a front-end manager, said that queues at the cash registers were growing longer and that grocery shelves were not being restocked in a timely manner because so many people were calling in sick with their own positive tests or those of family members. At a QFC grocery store in Seattle, Mr Sam Dancy, a front-end supervisor, said many colleagues were calling out sick. The store, part of a chain owned by Kroger, has closed early several times, and customers are helping to bag their own groceries. There are long lines, and some of the self-checkout lanes are closed because employees are not available to oversee them.

"Some people are so tired of what's going on - you have some that are exposed and some that are using it as an excuse to not have to work to be around these circumstances," said Mr Dancy, a member of the local food and commercial workers union, who has worked at the chain for 30 years. "I have anxiety till I get home, thinking, 'do I have this or not?' It's a mental thing that I think a lot of us are enduring." Shifting guidelines around isolation are also causing confusion at many stores. While H&M has instructed employees like Ms Milliam to isolate for 14 days after testing positive for Covid-19, Macy's said in a memo to employees last week that it would adopt new guidance from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that recommended shortening isolation for infected people to five days from 10 if they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving. But even if retailers shorten isolation periods, schools and day-care facilities may have longer quarantine periods for exposed families, putting working parents in a bind.

Ms Luick of Macy's said she felt the guidance was aimed at"constantly trying to get people to work", and did not make her feel safer. Even as Omicron spreads faster than other variants, employers have not shown a willingness to reinstitute previous precautions or increased pay, said Mr Kevin Schneider, secretary-treasurer of a unit of the United Food and Commercial Workers in the Denver area. Like many retailers, Kroger has not provided hazard pay nationally since the early stages of the pandemic, though the union is negotiating for it to be reinstated. The chain has also discontinued measures such as controlling how many customers are allowed in stores at a time. The union has been asking for armed guards at all of its stores in the Denver area as incidents of violence increase.

In a statement, a Kroger spokesman said:"We have been navigating the Covid-19 pandemic for nearly two years, and, in line with our values, the safety of our associates and customers has remained our top priority." The company added that front-line employees had each received as much US$1,760 (S$2,377) in additional pay to"reward and recognise them for their efforts during the pandemic". More broadly, the staffing shortages have put a new spotlight on a potential vaccine-or-testing mandate from the Joe Biden administration, which major retailers have been resisting. The fear of losing workers appears to be looming large, especially now. While the retail industry initially cited the holiday season rush for its resistance to such rules, it has more recently pointed to the burden of testing unvaccinated workers.

After oral arguments in the case last Friday, the Supreme Court's conservative majority expressed scepticism about whether the Biden administration had legal authority to mandate that large employers require workers to be vaccinated. The National Retail Federation, a major industry lobbying group, said in a statement last week that it"continues to believe that (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) exceeded its authority in promulgating its vaccine mandate". The group estimated that the order would require 20 million tests a week nationally, based on external data on unvaccinated workers, and that"such testing capacity currently does not exist". Still, Macy's was among major employers that started asking employees for their vaccination status last week ahead of the Supreme Court hearing and said it might require proof of negative tests beginning on Feb 16. "Our primary focus at this stage is preparing our members for an eventual mandate to ensure they have the information and tools they need to manage their workforce and meet the needs of their customers," said Mr Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which includes companies like Macy's, Target, Home Depot, Gap and Walmart.

As seasonal Covid-19 surges become the norm, unions and companies are looking for consistent policies. Mr Jim Araby, director of strategic campaigns for the food and commercial workers union in Northern California, said the retail industry needed to put in place more sustainable supports for workers who got ill. For example, he said, a trust fund jointly administered by the union and several employers could no longer offer Covid-19-related sick days for union members. "We have to start treating this as endemic. And figuring out what are the structural issues we have to put forward to deal with this," Mr Araby said.

Join .