Today’s COVID-19 news: Jobs, schools, and even celebrities take a hard hit

The latest coronavirus surge in the United States, driven by the Omicron variant, has disrupted businesses. It has also stretched their employees, who were already worn down from nearly two years of taxing work throughout the pandemic and a historic labor shortage.

The growing number of sick workers adds to the pressures that businesses face holding onto staff and filling vacancies, as well as their demands on their current staff, who are forced to pick up extra responsibilities or shifts.

The surge has triggered “widespread cancellations and closures, as already short-staffed businesses are hit with a wave of staff calling in sick,” Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics, said in an email to clients Wednesday.

Celebrities aren’t safe from the virus, either.

Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination status, Novak Djokovic was confined to an immigration detention hotel in Australia on Thursday as the No. 1 men’s tennis player in the world awaited a court ruling on whether he can compete in the Australian Open later this month.

The Chicago Bears placed quarterback Justin Fields on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Thursday, likely sidelining him for the finale and ending his rookie season.

After hosts of NBC’s late night shows were hit with Covid, the network’s morning show had a host of its own catch the virus.

Hoda Kotb — one of the hosts of the NBC’s “Today” — said on Thursday that she has tested positive for Covid.

A dramatic surge in coronavirus cases has sidelined more than 800 Los Angeles city police and fire personnel and led to slightly longer ambulance and fire response times, adding to concerns about shortages of critical staff including health care workers.

Speaking of L.A., Los Angeles County will resume its annual homeless count in full a year after it was limited over concerns that it couldn’t be done safely or accurately during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Thursday.

The Abbott BinaxNOW and Quidel QuickVue — two widely used rapid at-home COVID tests — may sometimes fail to spot evidence of the Omicron variant in the first days after infection, even when people are carrying substantial levels of the virus, preliminary research suggests.

The researchers focused on 30 people infected with COVID at five workplaces that experienced what were most likely outbreaks of the Omicron variant last month. The people received both saliva-based PCR tests (the gold standard) and rapid antigen-based tests involving nasal swabs.