Bulletins

CES dropouts and mask mandates: How the new COVID-19 variant is shaking up Silicon Valley

Companies are responding with renewed mask mandates and canceled events.

Two hands passing off a COVID-19 vaccination record card.

Some companies are requiring employees to be vaccinated.

Photo by Grant Hindsley/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Latest Bulletins

In her first TV interview since becoming chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan had a message for business executives who think their money, lawyers and lobbyists will shield them from antitrust scrutiny: "Enforcers are not gonna back down."

Keep Reading Show less

Revolut is rolling out commission-free stock trading in the U.S., highlighting the U.K. mobile banking company’s bid to become a “global financial super app.” The move is also a direct challenge to major online brokerages led by Robinhood. Shares of Robinhood slipped 2% in late morning trading.

Keep Reading Show less

Activision Blizzard has been embroiled in a sexism and workplace discrimination crisis for the past six months, the effects of which directly led to the announcement on Tuesday that Microsoft plans to buy the publisher for a record-breaking $68.7 billion, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.

Keep Reading Show less

Snapchat announced in a Tuesday blog post that it would be changing its “Quick Add” feature to make it harder for users to befriend people under 18. The company said that this will make it more difficult for drug dealers to seek out adolescent buyers.

Keep Reading Show less

Vishal Garg, the Better.com CEO who took a break after firing hundreds of workers during a virtual town hall, was reinstated, according to a company email that was obtained by The New York Times.

Keep Reading Show less

Podcasting has long been hailed as the ideal medium for emerging content creators looking to find an audience online. TuneIn CEO Richard Stern believes that this is no longer true. “Podcasting disproportionately benefits Top 10 hits, celebrities, brands that people recognize,” Stern recently told Protocol.

Keep Reading Show less

Lyra Health, a mental health benefits provider, raised $235 million in a Series F funding round, the company announced Wednesday. The Burlingame-based company will use the money to continue international expansion.

Keep Reading Show less

The ongoing rivalry between small tech companies and the industry behemoths they rely on expanded Tuesday when over forty companies signed an open letter of support for The American Innovation and Choice Online Act. While some of the companies that signed have fought what they see as anti-competitive practices for years, others, like Y Combinator, are entering the fray for the first time.

Keep Reading Show less

The pandemic has forever changed the future of worker-employer relationships as employees become less scared to walk away from their jobs. Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, said it's up to employers listen to their staff's needs to keep them from joining the Great Resignation.

Keep Reading Show less

Peloton is considering sweeping layoffs in the company's sales and marketing departments, a recording obtained by Insider revealed.

Keep Reading Show less

Two Washington state senators introduced legislation today to limit Amazon's requirements for its warehouse and fulfillment workers, proposing that all warehouse employees in the state be granted new rights to protect themselves from productivity quotas that could interfere with meal and rest breaks. The new bill, SB 5891, takes direct aim at Amazon's productivity metrics without naming Amazon as the target.

Keep Reading Show less

Former employees for Apple and Google testified Tuesday in support of a bill that would limit what Washington employers can include in non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements.

The bill, HB 1795, closely resembles the Silenced No More Act, which was passed into law in California last year. The Washington bill forbids provisions in NDAs that prevent workers from discussing "illegal acts of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage and hour violations, and sexual assault" that they've experienced on the job. "This will ensure that those who raise complaints about inappropriate illegal behavior in the workplace can speak openly about their experiences if they choose to do so," said state representative Liz Berry, who sponsored the bill, in her opening remarks. "This bill will ensure that employers cannot silence the voices of survivors anymore."

Keep Reading Show less

NFT marketplace OpenSea has acquired Dharma Labs, which makes a wallet app for buying and selling crypto.

Keep Reading Show less

YouTube is effectively giving up on most of its original content production efforts: The video service will be winding down most of its Originals slate, Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl announced Tuesday. The decision coincides with the departure of YouTube's global head of original content Susanne Daniels.

Keep Reading Show less

Groundhog Day came early for Verizon and AT&T.

The wireless carriers agreed to a voluntary third delay of full C-Band 5G rollout over concerns that the wireless signal would interfere with aircraft radio equipment.

Keep Reading Show less

The app mandated for use by athletes, press members and spectators during the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and designed primarily for COVID-19 contact tracing has serious security deficiencies, according to a new report released on Tuesday.

Keep Reading Show less

Coinbase is teaming up with Mastercard to make it easier for users to buy NFTs, the two companies said Tuesday.

Keep Reading Show less

The top two U.S. competition enforcers announced on Tuesday a review of policies toward mergers and acquisitions — a signal they're determined to stop a lot more of them.

Keep Reading Show less

A series of patents recently granted to Meta show how Facebook plans to collect biometric information like body poses and pupil movement, and use it to sell virtual ads. The documents, first spotted by the Financial Times, give additional insight into how the company plans to monetize the metaverse.

Keep Reading Show less

Microsoft is acquiring Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, the tech giant announced Tuesday. The purchase makes Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue, just behind Tencent and Sony. The deal marks the largest ever acquisition in the video game industry by a wide margin, just a week after Grand Theft Auto parent company Take-Two Interactive purchased Zynga for a record $12.7 billion.

Keep Reading Show less

The 10 highest-earning TikTok stars made about three times as much in 2021 as they did from mid-2019 to mid-2020, according to a new Forbes study. Charli D'Amelio, the #1 earner of the year, pulled in $17.5 million.

Keep Reading Show less

Walmart has recently filed a series of trademark applications that make its ambitions pretty clear: to become a power player in the NFT space, to figure out how to make sure "the Walmart of the metaverse" is Walmart itself, and to bring cryptocurrency to the shopping experience.

Keep Reading Show less

Netflix raised its monthly prices for all of its plans in the U.S. and Canada on Friday, Reuters reported.

Keep Reading Show less

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is now investigating Meta's acquisition of virtual reality headset maker Oculus VR in 2014 for potential antitrust violations, Bloomberg reported on Friday, as part of the FTC's broader probe of the social networking giant over its history of buying fast-growing startups to squash potential competition.

Keep Reading Show less

The White House will launch its new website for ordering free at-home COVID-19 tests on Jan. 19. People will be able to order up to four tests per household on the new site — COVIDtests.gov — using just their name and address, and the White House anticipates shipments will go out within seven to 12 days.

Keep Reading Show less
Bulletins