COVID-19 fears dash hopes for the holiday season – again

The lines extend around the blocks again at some COVID-19 test sites. Refrigerated mobile morgues are on order and parts of Europe are tightening borders amid a winter peak in coronavirus infections.

This year’s holiday season was meant to be a repeat of last year’s low-key celebrations. Instead, it turns into an upsurge in restrictions, cancellations and growing angst over the never-ending pandemic.

“This year, more than ever, everyone needed a vacation,” said John McNulty, owner of Thief, a Brooklyn bar that had to close a day earlier this week because of an infected employee.

As Christmas and New Years approach, a veil lingers over the season. Infections are skyrocketing around the world, and the rapidly spreading omicron variant has triggered new restrictions on travel and public gatherings reminiscent of the dark days of 2020.

The accelerating cancellations seem “to have plunged us back into that kind of zombie world of the first week of March of the pandemic last year,” said Jonathan Neame, managing director of Shepherd Neame, the oldest brewery and chain. pubs of Great Britain.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday the city would “be watching very carefully” whether to move forward with plans to welcome a fully vaccinated crowd to Times Square on New Years Eve, a celebration that was canceled last year. It’s gone for now, said the mayor.

Several Broadway shows including “Hamilton”, “Mrs. Doubtfire “and” Harry Potter and the Cursed Child “have canceled performances in recent days due to cases of the virus in their all-vaccinated cast and crew. California and New York have reinstated indoor mask mandates .

In Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole urged residents not to go to the holiday season, calling them “just too dangerous.” She even regretted not to reunite with other households for Christmas.

“It is difficult, and it seems impossible, and it seems unfair,” she admitted, but “I have to say it.”

Many Americans have spent nearly two years on an emotional swing as the pandemic escalates and cycles in cycles and the hoped-for return to normalcy has been repeatedly pushed back. A recent poll by MTV Entertainment Group and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that nearly half of American adults said the pandemic made it harder to maintain their mental health.

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“I think for a lot of people there was this hope that this holiday season was going to be different. So if you go for that wait and don’t adjust it in the past couple of months, I think you’ll be all the more disappointed, ”said Dr Vaile Wright, clinical psychologist who works for the Association. American Psychology.

His advice? “Try to get to a place where you expect it to go on for a while, and if you’re feeling stuck, try to find ways to make sense of your life right now.”

The world is on the lookout for the omicron variant, which could become the dominant strain of coronavirus within weeks in many countries. Adding to this anxiety is the fact that hospitals in many US states are already dealing with patients infected with the delta variant. The army and the National Guard have been drafted to help in hospitals.

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Refrigerated mobile morgues, a sinister symbol of the start of the pandemic, are making a comeback. In Arizona, one county voted this week to spend $ 65,000 on a mobile mortuary because virus deaths have far exceeded capacity. A hospital in Akron, Ohio, has brought in a trailer to more than triple its morgue space, Cleveland TV station WKYC reported.

Some people struggle to get their fears under control.

Yvonne Sidella, a “50+” from Orwigsburg, Pa., Looks with serenity at the surge in cases and the looming omicron threat. She has no plans to let him alter her vacation plans, including spending time with her elderly parents, four children and eight grandchildren.

“I’m not going to let this blow my spirits,” said Sidella, a manufacturing supervisor. “I will continue to live my life. I’m not going to let this thing here scare me to go places or do things or touch people.

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After last winter’s brutal COVID-19 surge forced him to skip his usual Christmas trip home to visit family and friends in the Midwest, Don Carlson booked plane tickets in September. The administrator at the University of San Francisco thought that with the vaccines available and a lower number of infections, the trip to Minneapolis and Nebraska would be fine.

Soon after, hospitals began to pour into the Midwest. Then came the discovery of the omicron variant.

Carlson, 59, in good conscience couldn’t make the trip, so he canceled. He will stay in Northern California and reunite with a few vaccinated friends for breakfasts around the holidays. He plans to make Zoom calls with friends and relatives he has visited.

“It’s disappointing, but what would be a lot more disappointing is to extend it to a senior in your family because you’ve been through airports,” Carlson said. “I think it’s just safe to stay put.”

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Dakota LeRoy, a 25-year-old product designer in Manhattan who is fully vaccinated, had felt it would be safe to go to a Christmas-themed dive bar to celebrate a new job last week. But on Wednesday, she found out she was infected with COVID-19, after a sore throat and a few sniffles prompted her to get tested before a vacation visit with her boyfriend’s family to Boston.

“Everyone I know is either positive or has been in direct contact with someone who is,” she said.

April Burns, a New York City bill collector, said things were far from normal. But she considers that the worst is over.

“Last year everyone was closed. At least now things are open, you know. You can go out more and you can still see people, ”said Burns, who is unvaccinated and was queuing Thursday near Wall Street to comply with city rules that require her to be tested weekly.

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Rubinkam reported from Hamburg, Pennsylvania, and Swenson and Peltz from New York. Associated Press editors Bobby Caina Calvan in New York City, Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City, and Pat Eaton-Robb in Columbia, Connecticut, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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