Record 8.8 Million U.S. Workers Called Out for COVID-19 in First Two Weeks of 2022

by Victoria Santiago

Many businesses suffered at the beginning of the year as almost nine million workers called out due to COVID-19. This is on top of ongoing struggles that US companies face because they’re already short-staffed.

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey was released and showed some shocking data. Between December 29th, 2021 and January 10th, 2022, 8.8 million people called out of work because of coronavirus. This number is up drastically from call-out data at the beginning of December. Only three million workers called out sick during the two weeks leading up to the surge of COVID-19. The number has gone up so much because of a new strain of the virus called omicron. The survey didn’t specify if everyone was out because they had symptoms or because they had been in contact with someone who did.

Increased call-outs aren’t the only byproduct of this new COVID-19 strain. There’s been an increase in the number of layoffs. The number of unemployment claims has risen to 286,000. This is the highest amount of claims since July 2021. The good news is that these numbers are expected to return to normal soon. COVID-19 paired with typical holiday issues are behind these labor shortages and layoffs, but the effects should be temporary.

Creative Solutions to COVID-19 Short-Staffing

Until then, businesses are scrambling to bridge the gap between staff and customers. Although the service industry has usually taken the biggest hit during times like this, other industries have also been impacted. For example, in New Mexico, National Guard troops and state employees are filling in for teachers and other childcare workers. So far, they will fill in for 800 positions in hopes that it will help keep schools and daycares open.

This plan is relatively new, but officials are optimistic. New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the plan on Wednesday. People are encouraged to get licensed as substitute teachers or childcare workers. This is completely voluntary, of course. Gov. Grisham made sure to note that in no way would state employees get “drafted” to work in schools. Anyone who volunteered should do it purely for the sake of public service. DailyMail reports that the state is hoping to deploy 500 new substitute teachers and daycare workers as soon as possible. For state employees that choose to volunteer, they will still get their normal pay and will be on administrative leave. For National Guard troops that choose to volunteer, they will be considered as currently being active duty.

Other states are having school staffing problems due to COVID-19. California, Kansas, and Oklahoma have all streamlined the process to become a substitute teacher or daycare worker. This is in hopes that more people will try to work.