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Amid another Covid surge, schools and businesses find plans disrupted

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A healthcare worker administers a COVID-19 PCR test at a free test site in Farragut Square on December 28, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

A Covid-19 outbreak on a cruise in Lisbon. Thousands of flights canceled. Colleges going remote again.

It’s a new year but the pandemic continues to cause many of the same massive disruptions to American life that it has for almost two years now.

The most recent variant to blame is the omicron strain, which is highly transmissible and more likely to evade the protection of vaccines. Over the last week, a seven-day average of daily new cases of the virus topped 386,000, a doubling from the week prior, according to CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Rates are likely even higher because there are delays in reporting over the holidays and an increase in at-home testing that may be keeping cases off the radar of officials.

The surge in new Covid-19 cases means that attempts by businesses and schools to resume normal operation after the holidays are being upended once again.

Companies are pushing back their return-to-work dates as cases peak, including Chevron, Apple, Google and Uber.

Dozens of colleges have announced they’re moving classes online. Harvard University said it would aim to move much of its work and learning remote for at least the first three weeks of January.

“Please know that we do not take this step lightly,” Harvard officials wrote in a letter to staff and students. “It is prompted by the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases locally and across the country.”

Other schools also making the change include The University of Chicago, George Washington University and Columbia University. Many colleges will likely require that students have had their booster vaccine to return in the spring, as breakthrough cases become more common.

Local school districts across the country are also reassessing their plans as well. Some districts are switching back to remote or hybrid learning, while others are trying to lessen the exposure children have to each other by having students attend classes on modified schedule, without a lunch period.

Although New York City, which is the nation’s largest school district, has seen an explosion in Covid cases, the school system will be open as scheduled on Monday. The district is hoping to step up testing efforts to keep instruction in-person. The plan is to double the pace of testing, among both vaccinated and unvaccinated students. Students will be tested even if they don’t display sympton or have a record of having contact with someone who has been sickened by the virus.

One concern is that people will be returning from vacations and visits with family and friends over the holidays, and will have unknowingly been exposed to Covid.

As the rush home get underway, travel has also be upended both by the virus, and by stormy weather, which has grounded some planes.

By Saturday afternoon, more than 2,500 U.S. flights had been canceled, according to tracking service FlightAware. Some of the disruptions are also due to winter storms.

A cruise ship with over 4,000 people aboard has been stopped in Lisbon, Portugal due to a Covid-19 outbreak among crew members, the AP reported on Saturday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that Americans avoid should cruises, regardless of their vaccination status.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Teladoc Tumbled 38% After Big First-Quarter Loss. Is It Just a Pandemic Play?

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After pandemic drop, Canada’s detention of immigrants rises again By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Two closed Canadian border checkpoints are seen after it was announced that the border would close to “non-essential traffic” to combat the spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the U.S.-Canada border crossing at the Thousand Isla

By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is locking up more people in immigration detention without charge after the numbers fell during the pandemic, government data obtained by Reuters shows.

Authorities cite an overall rise in foreign travelers amid easing restrictions but lawyers say their detained clients came to Canada years ago.

Canada held 206 people in immigration detention as of March 1, 2022 – a 28% increase compared with March 1 of the previous year. Immigration detainees have not been charged with crimes in Canada and 68% of detainees as of March 1 were locked up because Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) fears they are “unlikely to appear” at an immigration hearing, according to the data.

The rise puts Canada at odds with Amnesty International and other human rights groups that have urged Ottawa to end its use of indefinite immigration detention, noting CBSA has used factors such as a person’s mental illness as reason to detain them.

A CBSA spokesperson told Reuters that “when the number of entries (to Canada) goes up, an increase in detention is to be expected.” CBSA has said in the past it uses detention as a last resort.

A lawyer told Reuters her detained clients have been in Canada for years.

In the United Kingdom, too, immigration detention levels rose last year after dropping earlier in the pandemic, according to government statistics. Unlike Canada, the United States and Australia, European Union member states have limits on immigration detention and those limits cannot exceed six months.

The rise in detentions puts people at risk of contracting COVID-19 in harsh congregate settings, refugee lawyers say.

Julia Sande, Human Rights Law and Policy Campaigner with Amnesty, called the increase in detentions “disappointing but not surprising,” although she was reluctant to draw conclusions from limited data.

The number of immigration detainees in Canada dropped early in the pandemic, from a daily average of 301 in the fourth quarter (January through March) of 2019-20 to 126 in the first quarter (April through June) of 2020-21.

FEW NO-SHOWS AS DETENTIONS DROPPED

Detaining fewer people did not result in a significant increase in no-shows at immigration hearings – the most common reason for detention, according to Immigration and Refugee Board data.

The average number of no-shows as a percentage of admissibility hearings was about 5.5% in 2021, according to that data, compared to about 5.9% in 2019.

No-shows rose as high as 16% in October 2020, but a spokesperson for the Immigration and Refugee Board said this was due to people not receiving notifications when their hearings resumed after a pause in the pandemic.

Refugee lawyer Andrew Brouwer said the decline in detention earlier in the pandemic shows Canada does not need to lock up as many non-citizens.

“We didn’t see a bunch of no-shows. We didn’t see the sky fall … It for sure shows that the system can operate without throwing people in jail,” Brouwer said.

He added that detainees face harsh pandemic conditions in provincial jails – including extended lockdowns, sometimes with three people in a cell for 23 hours a day.

Refugee lawyer Swathi Sekhar said CBSA officials and the Immigration and Refugee Board members reviewing detentions took the risk of COVID-19 into account when deciding whether someone should be detained earlier in the pandemic but are doing so less now.

“Their position is that COVID is not a factor that should weigh in favor of release,” she said.

“We also see very, very perverse findings … [decision-makers] outright saying that individuals are going to be safer in jail.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

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Nasdaq futures rise as market attempts comeback from April sell-off, Meta shares soar

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Stock futures rose in overnight trading as the market shook off the April sell-off and investors reacted positively to earnings from Meta Platforms.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 70 points or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped 1.2%.

The moves came as shares of Meta surged more than 18% after hours following a beat on earnings but a miss on revenue, a sign that investors may see signs of relief in the beaten-up tech sector. Shares were down 48% on the year heading into the results.

Meanwhile, shares of Qualcomm gained 5.6% in extended trading on the back of strong earnings while PayPal rose 5% despite issuing weak guidance for the second quarter.

“I think a lot of people want to believe that earnings are going to pull us out of this, but earnings are not what got us into this,” SoFi’s Liz Young told CNBC’s “Closing Bell: Overtime” on Wednesday. “… But the reality is there are so many macro headwinds still in front of us in the next 60 days that the market is just hard to impress.”

The after-hour activity followed a volatile regular trading session that saw the Nasdaq Composite stoop to its lowest level in 2022, as stocks looked to bounce back from a tech-led April sell-off. The index is down more than 12% since the start of April.

In Wednesday’s regular trading, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended at 12,488.93, after rising to 1.7% at session highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 61.75 points, or 0.2%, to 33,301.93 propped up by gains from Visa and Microsoft, while the S&P 500 added 0.2% to 4,183.96.

Investors await big tech earnings on Thursday from Apple, Amazon and Twitter, along with results from Robinhood. Jobless claims are also due out Thursday.

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