Surge of new COVID-19 cases derails holiday travel for thousands, prompts opening of new testing centers


Stuart Seeger (Flickr')

Bad weather, as well as high infection rates from the omicron variant of the coronavirus are causing holiday travel issues.

Ole Olafson, Reporter

The omicron variant of the coronavirus struck at just the wrong time for holiday cheer.

Hopeful holiday travelers from across the country have been thwarted by thousands of cancelled flights, many because of COVID-19 infections among pilots and crew.

According to an article by Leslie Josephs, CNBC reported yesterday that 1,500 domestic flights were cancelled on Sunday and over 800 on Monday.

Caitlin Seivers reported for Patch that Sky Harbor International Airport, which serves the Phoenix Metro area, had 79 canceled flights and 103 delays on Monday.

U.S. carriers have reportedly petitioned the Centers for Disease Control to shorten the current 10-day quarantine period for vaccinated individuals who have become infected to five days, to help ease labor issues and maintain flight schedules.

“Our current pilot Covid-19 case count is on the rise.  Pilots who have developed symptoms are also in quarantine and we have a high number of pilots on the sick list,” Bryan Quigley, United’s senior Vice president of operations wrote in a message to pilots. lists the most recent number of cases in Arizona at 1,976, with a positivity rate among individuals tested at 12%.  That rate is only five points lower than the highest positivity rate, during the height of the pandemic in June, 2020 and three points higher than October’s 9% rate.

Statistics indicate that 35% of Arizona’s population remains unvaccinated and those individuals are approximately four times as likely to test positive and 15 times more likely to die from COVID-19.

With the typically more contagious omicron variant becoming the dominant strain of coronavirus, the need for testing, along with new cases, has spiked again.

The increased need for testing has prompted Embry Health, a leading company in COVID testing, to announce they will open an additional 100 testing sites and hire 500 workers nationally.