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Christmas in Europe Cancelled Again, More Mask and Vaccine Mandates in the US

As the Omicron variant spreads, mounting restrictions dash hopes of return to a normal Christmas once again in Europe and the US.
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Cancelled After Audience Already Seated

Christmas Cancelled Again

The WSJ reports Covid-19 Cancels Christmas Around Europe…Again

From Spanish holidays to Greek celebrations to German circus performances, the Covid-19 pandemic has derailed plans and upended Christmas traditions across Europe for a second year in a row.

The U.K. government, which recently put in place a number of Omicron-related restrictions, says the number of Omicron cases is doubling every two days. The country on Wednesday reported its highest number of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. Denmark and Norway this week introduced new curbs on nightlife. France has closed its nightclubs and said it would restrict tourist arrivals from the U.K. starting Saturday. In Germany, politicians are debating whether to make vaccinations compulsory, following the example of neighboring Austria, where shots will become mandatory from February.

“I can imagine how many of you are saddened, like me, to know that this Christmas is once again being overshadowed by the pandemic,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday.

After postponing its 25th anniversary last year, the Christmas circus in the southern German city of Offenburg called off its performances once again this year. On the Greek peninsula of Halkidiki, local authorities scrapped public celebrations due to the high number of infections. Officials, however, are planning to decorate the communities in recognition of the “psychological need of young and old to celebrate the spirit of Christmas,” according to a statement.

In Les Pieux, northern France, local authorities are requiring organizers to enclose Christmas markets with a perimeter fence and have guards at the entry points to check people’s vaccine certificates.

Queen Elizabeth Cancels Pre-Christmas Lunch

In the UK, Queen Elizabeth Cancels Pre-Christmas Lunch as COVID cases soar.

Broadway Show Cancelled After Audience Seated 

In the US, ‘Moulin Rouge!’ Cancels Tonight’s Performance After Audience Seated; ‘Jagged Little Pill’, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’, ‘MJ’, ‘Hamilton’ & ‘Tina’ Pause Schedules

The audience at tonight’s performance of Broadway’s Moulin Rouge! was seated and waiting for the music to start when the show was canceled due to a positive Covid test result within the company. The result apparently had been received just prior to curtain.

The audience was ushered out of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Producers are expected to announce an updated schedule performance Friday.

The cancellation was just the latest — though certainly the most dramatic — in Broadway’s new wave of Covid-caused pauses this week. Jagged Little Pill, the musical of Alanis Morissette songs at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre, has canceled tonight’s performance due to the detection of a positive Covid case in the company. Performances are scheduled to resume Friday.

New Mask and Vaccine Requirements

Eight states reinstate universal indoor mandates as omicron variant spreads. 

The AARP has State-by-State Guide to Face Mask Requirements

Eight states — California, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington — require most people to wear masks in indoor public places, whether or not they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Puerto Rico has a similar order in place.

Connecticut has an indoor mask mandate that extends only to the unvaccinated. Washington is the only state with an outdoor mask order, requiring face-covering at outside events attended by 500 or more people.

New Disruptions

CNN discusses New Covid Disruptions

Covid-19 cases have caused a number of colleges and universities to shift to online classes and exams and cancel student gatherings and events: Princeton University, New York University, Cornell University and Middlebury College in Vermont announced in recent days their fall semesters would conclude remotely following a rise in cases on their campuses.

Princeton University announced Wednesday all undergraduate exams would shift to a remote format to allow students to "leave campus at their earliest conveniences." Indoor gatherings where face coverings can't be worn are also canceled or postponed through January 7, 2022.

Similarly, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is facing staff shortages in the wake of a Covid-19 outbreak following an offsite holiday party.

The NFL acknowledged Wednesday the uptick in cases among its players and teams, including the Cleveland Browns, scheduled to host the Las Vegas Raiders on Saturday. Despite the growing number of players added to the Browns' reserve list, there are no plans to postpone the game, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters.

Separately, the NBA and the NHL announced in recent days the postponement of games due to Covid-19 cases or health and safety protocols. And on Thursday, citing "the spiraling rise of COVID-19 cases in the region," the Montreal Canadiens announced their home game against the Philadelphia Flyers would be played that evening without fans, at the request of Quebec health officials.

Growing number of companies suspend vaccine mandates, including hospitals and Amtrak

Meanwhile, please note a Growing number of companies suspend vaccine mandates, including hospitals and Amtrak

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A growing number of health care systems and other companies, including Amtrak and General Electric, are suspending mandates that require employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The move follows court rulings in recent weeks that paused such requirements from the Biden administration for health care workers and federal contractors. Still, the decision about whether to require vaccinations remained up to individual employers.

The mandates are being suspended at a precarious time: Many employers face labor shortages, while Covid cases are surging and the highly mutated omicron variant is spreading.

“Most employers do not have the luxury of losing 5 percent or 10 percent or whatever percent of their workforce doesn’t want to get vaccinated,” said Barron, who works with the law firm Cozen O’Connor. “In this environment, it’s very tough, especially in jobs like health care or other industries where it’s a very tight labor market.”

Vaccine Mandates

CNN reports the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order Wednesday effectively allowing a Health Care Worker Mandate to be enforced in about half the states in the country.

"Its ultimate resolution will benefit from 'the airing of competing view' in our sister circuits," the 5th Circuit said in its order, which was issued by a panel made up of two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee.

The mandate had previously been frozen nationwide by federal judge in Louisiana, whose order followed the move by a federal judge in Missouri that blocked the mandate in 10 states. On Monday, the 5th Circuit -- faced with a request by the Justice Department to reinstate the mandate -- said that the hold on the mandate will remain in place in the 14 states that brought the challenge in Louisiana.

The 5th Circuit order did not disturb the separate move by the Missouri judge to block the mandate in the 10 states in the challenge to the requirement that was brought in Missouri. That order was recently left in place by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals. A third appeals court has signaled that it believes the mandate to be lawful.

These differing opinions means the Supreme Court will have to deal with the issue sooner rather than later. 

Economically Speaking

Half the country has a vaccine mandate for health care workers. I expect many of them to quit.

Vaccine and mask requirements will kill New Year's Eve parties in all the states that have them. 

Retail sales were already very weak in November. Restaurants and movie theaters are in for a world of hurt. Many will not survive this new wave.

It appears that Jim Bianco's call for Deeper Panic and More Restrictions Over a Covid-19 Omicron Surge were correct.

For a look at the latest retail sales report, please see Retail Sales in November Unexpectedly Slow, Well Under the Rate of Inflation

Other than that, have a good day and Merry Christmas.

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