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Coronavirus update: Pandemic sends inflation soaring

Airlines are struggling to stay aloft

COVID-19 finance concept
Photo (c) aaaaimages - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 62,712,731 (61,652,393)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 843,590 (839,936)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 315,350,735 (310,981,515)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,510,252 (5,498,118)‌

Pandemic sends inflation to highest level since 1982

Since the COVID-19 pandemic tangled supply chains, created shortages, and pumped trillions of relief dollars into the economy, inflation has soared. The Labor Department reports that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in December hit its highest level since 1982, rising 7% from December 2020.

The only good news for consumers is that the pace of rising prices appears to be slowing. Consumer prices rose 0.5% from November, which was a smaller increase than from October to November.

Economists say shortages of manufactured goods, including food products, are driving prices higher. However, they also note that consumers aren’t hesitating to pay higher prices for the things they want.

Airlines struggle to stay aloft in latest COVID-19 wave

United Airlines reports that about 3,000 U.S. employees – or approximately 4% of its workforce – have tested positive for COVID-19, making it difficult to assemble flight crews. The airline canceled 149 flights on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, U.S. airlines have canceled around 30,000 flights since late December. While sick employees caused most of the cancellations, bad weather also played a role.

"I expect January is going to be a tough month for not just air travel but the entire country," Brett Snyder, president of Cranky Concierge travel assistance and a former airline employee, told KABC-TV in Los Angeles. "Even if the cases are mostly mild, especially for the vaccinated, that still requires people to stay away from work for a period of time, and that will disrupt flights if enough crewmembers get sick at any given time."

FDA chief predicts everyone will get COVID-19

If you have not yet been infected with COVID-19, you probably will be at some point. That’s the conclusion of Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

At a Senate hearing this week, Woodcock said the Omicron variant is spreading so quickly that it will eventually infect just about everyone in the U.S. “I think it’s hard to process what’s actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get [COVID-19],” she said.

The unofficial tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows 1.4 million new cases on Monday alone. That doesn’t count the people who test positive on rapid tests taken at home and are not always reported to local health departments. 

Around the nation

  • West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice’s office has announced that the governor has tested positive for COVID-19. Justice, who is fully vaccinated and boosted, is said to be feeling “extremely unwell” and is isolating at home.

  • New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy has reinstated a Public Health Emergency in the state, effective immediately, to help officials curb the spread of the virus. “COVID-19 remains a significant threat to our State and we must commit every resource available to beating back the wave caused by the Omicron variant,” Murphy said.

  • Iowa: Two school districts in the state have backtracked from previous vaccine mandates. The Ankeny school board and the Pella school board have both voted not to require employees to follow the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

  • California: Many patients who scheduled minor surgeries have had those operations canceled due to hospital staff shortages. With COVID-19 cases at record highs in the state, the California Department of Public Health is deciding whether to issue an order to hospitals statewide to suspend elective surgeries in cases that would not negatively threaten a patients’ health.

  • Vermont: Gov. Phil Scott has announced that Vermont will be a test market for the federal government's plan to distribute free COVID-19 test kits. Under the pilot program, the state and its partners will ship up to 250,000 test kits to consumers. The program will assess how well online ordering and delivery works.

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