We begin 2022 as we ended 2021, with the newest variant of the virus dominating the headlines.
As the Business Times goes to press on its first edition of the year, it is back to the future, as most meetings and live events have moved to virtual. Virtual meetings are a poor substitute for in-person, but increasingly the participants are now Zoom veterans who know how to use chat and accept the limits of the medium.
What is also different this time is the vaccine regimen that is largely keeping vaccinated people out of the hospital. That has resulted in a record case spike without a correspondingly large surge in hospitalizations — and the diminished surge is largely among the unvaccinated. We will say this again, and remind readers that both Donald Trump and Joe Biden agree: The vaccines work, and you should get vaccinated.
We have learned a lot since the spring of 2020. We have vaccines and treatments that didn’t exist then. In 2022, there is a bias toward keeping schools open, another positive development. High-quality masks are much more readily available, and there is a lot more testing — with sometimes frightening results when it comes to positivity.
There is little appetite for widespread business closures, which means businesses will need to take it upon themselves to take some steps necessary to minimize the spread of COVID-19, such as working remotely when possible and moving some functions outdoors even when it’s not required.
What has not changed in 22 months is muddled messaging from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which often provides guidance that one needs quantum computing skills to navigate. To take just one example, the CDC keep shifting its guidance on how long people with COVID-19 should isolate and whether they need to test negative to rejoin society, leaving state and local public health officials, school administrators and business owners scrambling to keep up.
And foot-dragging by the Food and Drug Administration on rapid tests is hard to fathom. The technology for at-home tests is widely accepted and there are numerous brands on the shelves in Europe that haven’t been approved here, which makes our tests harder to get and more expensive.
Leadership is key in these times, and it will be up to our local government and health officials to help navigate the omicron surge. Many businesses have proven surprisingly adept at adaption. If history is any guide, this could be the beginning of the end for the pandemic, and that would be welcome news.
LATEST FROM SACRAMENTO
A new year has arrived, and businesses face a flurry of new laws.
California’s march to the $15 minimum wage continues, with mixed results for those at the lower end of the wage scale. The state minimum is now $15 per hour for larger employers and $14 for smaller ones. And even without an increase to the legal minimum, inflation and a tight job market are making $15 per hour the floor for many industries.
In other news from Sacramento, virtually every business will need a plan to recycle organic waste — a burden that will reduce landfill loads but also add costs.
And, two important new laws take effect that will make it easier to build medium-density housing and should give our state much-needed relief from its housing supply crunch. One allows duplexes on many properties formerly classified as single-family, and the other makes it easier to upzone properties near public transit.