The tech industry's best-laid plans for coping with COVID-19 have been no match for the omicron variant, which now accounts for nearly three-fourths of overall COVID-19 cases in the U.S. In a matter of weeks, return-to-work plans got scrambled, companies backed out en masse from one of industry's biggest gatherings and testing mandates buckled as at-home test kits flew off the shelves.
Here’s a look at how tech companies and their leaders are grappling with the latest surge:
Amazon is imposing limits on the number of at-home tests shoppers can buy, in hopes of addressing the pre-holiday test shortage. The new limit caps it at 10 tests per shopper. Major pharmacies including CVS and Walgreens have issued similar rules.
But help may be on the way — if a little late for the holidays (and for omicron). On Tuesday, the White House said it will ship 500 million tests to Americans for free and is creating a website where people can order at-home COVID-19 tests.
Intel reportedly sent a notice earlier this month telling employees to get vaccinated or risk unpaid leave, which is a huge shift from last month, when execs were nervous they’d lose workers by implementing such a requirement. HPE and IBM are also mandating vaccines.
Amazon also brought back its mask mandate for warehouse employees, after lifting the requirement for vaccinated employees last month.
Bill Gates, meanwhile, said he canceled his holiday gatherings because of the omicron surge, which he said may be the "worst part of the pandemic." But Gates also said the current surge may only last a few months because of how quickly omicron spreads.
Large tech companies like T-Mobile, Amazon and Twitter are already dropping plans to attend CES 2022 in person this year. As of right now, the big tech trade show still has an in-person component in Las Vegas.
The World Economic Forum's annual event in Davos was also pushed to the summer. It was originally scheduled for next month.