Omicron Emptying Offices, College Goes Remote Again

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    This week, Cornell University announced the shutdown of its Ithaca, New York, campus, moving to “alert level red,” after reporting 469 active student virus cases.

    “While faculty and staff case numbers currently remain low, just last evening our COVID-19 testing lab team identified evidence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in a significant number of Monday's positive student samples,” the university said in a statement.

    New York City Public Schools, the biggest school system in the nation, shut down three schools and 1,700 classes since the end of November. This is on top of the three schools and 2,500 classrooms closed between the start of the fall semester and November.

    The latest wave of closures also impacted New York City's financial district. While it is not a traditional “lockdown” because businesses are not closing their doors entirely, many are making remote work an option for their employees.

    Blackstone and Carlyle Group both gave their staffers the option to work from home this week. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are encouraging our people to work from home for the remainder of the year,” Carlyle Group said in a statement. “We plan to return to our hybrid approach in the new year.”

    Citadel also gives staff the option to work remotely for the next several weeks.

    Citadel CEO Ken Griffin, who pushed his employees to return to the office over the summer, recently told CNBC, “I was wrong on this. Everybody's still finding their way and then you get the omicron variant.”

    In addition, Bank of Montreal, Citigroup, and Jefferies Financial Group have all instructed their employees to work remotely. JPMorgan Chase & Co announced their annual healthcare conference online in January.

    In October, a Partnership for New York City survey anticipated half of office workers would be back in the office by the end of January. However, the partnership's president believes the number is now “questionable.”

    Adding to the list of closures is Broadway, which canceled multiple shows this week due to an increase in coronavirus cases. Broadway reopened in September after an 18-month shutdown.

    In Silicon Valley, many businesses are making the same moves as the financial titans in New York City. On Wednesday, Apple shifted its return to office date from February 1 to a date “yet to be determined.” Apple joins Uber and Google on the list of tech companies who have all but given up on immediate plans to return to the office.

    If businesses and institutions nationwide follow these company's lead, remote work could quickly become a trend across the country.

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