Plans to return to the office grow murkier by the day.

Companies are postponing return-to-office plans and canceling holiday parties as concerns grow over the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.,


The Rockettes cancelled performances at Radio City Music Hall for the holiday season.Credit…Yuki Iwamura/Associated Press

New Year’s Eve in Times Square is up in the air. The National Basketball Association is canceling games, as is the National Hockey League. The Rockettes are done for the Christmas season. For companies in the United States watching the headlines about the resurgent coronavirus, the news of late is unwelcome.

Last week, Apple said it was indefinitely postponing office-return plans and The Washington Post announced it was mandating booster shots and weekly testing. And over the weekend, CNN closed its offices to nonessential employees.

The rapid spread of the virus’s Omicron variant continues to upend companies’ plans and force changes to policies. In recent days:

Citigroup sent a memo to its staff in New York and New Jersey giving them the option to work from home through the holidays given the surge in cases in the New York metropolitan area. JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley haven’t changed their policies, but staff are being given the flexibility to work from home, according to people familiar with the situation who declined to be identified discussing personnel matters.

JPMorgan Chase’s huge health care conference is going virtual.The event, set to begin on Jan. 10, is moving online “out of an abundance of caution,” the bank told attendees on Wednesday.

Goldman Sachs reportedly told teams in New York to cancel holiday parties. The bank has already held several parties over the past few weeks. JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley are reportedly allowing individual teams and departments to go ahead with holiday parties (for now).

Apple delayed its return to office “to a date yet to be determined.” The company told employees on Wednesday of the change in plans after already pushing back its return date three times. It also temporarily shut stores in Annapolis, Md., Miami and Ottawa in response to a rise in coronavirus cases.

Several Broadway shows were canceled and the Metropolitan Opera will require booster shots.The cancellations came after cast or crew members for shows, including “Hamilton,” tested positive. The Met’s new rule mandating boosters for staff and audience members, which takes effect on Jan. 17, makes it the first major performing arts institution to introduce such a measure. “Everyone is going to be doing this,” said Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.

The World Economic Forum postponed its annual meeting set to begin on Jan. 17.Credit…Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The World Economic Forum said Monday that it was postponing its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, citing concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant.

The cancellation of the event, which had been planned for Jan. 17-21, is one of the biggest disruptions caused by the new wave of coronavirus cases, and upends plans for the many world leaders and corporations that had planned to attend.

As recently as Thursday, the World Economic Forum had said it was proceeding with the event, which draws thousands of politicians, executives and nonprofit leaders to a ritzy ski town in the Swiss Alps for lectures, panel discussions, dinners and parties. Organizers had said that they would make a decision about whether to proceed by Jan. 6.

But with Omicron cases surging worldwide, the meeting was “deferred” on Monday and tentatively rescheduled for the summer.

“Current pandemic conditions make it extremely difficult to deliver a global in-person meeting,” Adrian Monck, a spokesman for the event, said in an email announcing the cancellation. “Despite the meeting’s stringent health protocols, the transmissibility of Omicron and its impact on travel and mobility have made deferral necessary.”

The move suggests new uncertainties for business travel, yet another headache for chief executives and raises the prospect that more major events could be canceled or postponed in the weeks ahead.

CNN is closing its offices to all employees who are able to work remotely.Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

CNN is closing its U.S. offices to all employees who are able to work remotely, according to an internal memo sent to staff on Saturday evening.

“If your job does not REQUIRE you to be in the office in order to do it, please work from elsewhere,” the network’s president, Jeff Zucker, wrote to staff, citing a surge of Covid cases around the country and within the teams at CNN.

“We are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” the memo read. “And it will also protect those who will be in the office by minimizing the number of people who are there.”

Masks will be required at all times, “unless you are eating, drinking or in a room by yourself,” Mr. Zucker told staff.

CNN’s announcement is part of a wave of large companies hitting the brakes on returning to the office, for many triggering uneasy feelings of d?j? vu of the early pandemic.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, announced on Wednesday that the company was delaying the return to physical offices indefinitely. JP Morgan Chase told its workers on Friday they could work remotely until the end of the year. Lyft is not requiring workers to return to offices until at least 2023.

A pop-up vaccination site in New York.Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times

The rapid spread of the Omicron variant has seemingly bolstered the Biden administration’s argument in favor of a vaccine mandate for large businesses.

But a recent surge in cases has raised new questions, Lauren Hirsch, Emma Goldberg and Charlie Savage write in The New York Times: Will the government take its requirements further — even as the original rule remains contentious — and ask employers to mandate booster shots, too? The country’s testing capacity has also been strained, adding to concerns that companies will be unable to meet the rule’s testing requirements.

On Friday, an appeals court lifted the legal block on the vaccine rule, though appeals to the ruling were immediately filed, leaving the rule’s legal status up in the air. On Saturday, hours after the appeals court ruling, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urged employers to start working to get in compliance. But OSHA also gave employers some leeway, pushing back full enforcement of the rule until February.

“My clients are totally confused as, quite frankly, am I,” Erin McLaughlin, a labor and employment lawyer at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, said on Saturday. “My sense is that there are a lot of employers scrambling to try and put their mandate programs in place.”


Downtown Amsterdam on Sunday, after the Netherlands announced the closing of nonessential shops, bars, restaurants and schools until mid-January.Credit…Ramon Van Flymen/EPA, via Shutterstock

Global markets sunk on Monday, and Wall Street was poised for a drop, as investors took in the latest grim forecasts about the sudden surge in the Omicron variant and a critical setback in President Biden’s efforts to pass a massive domestic policy bill.

The S&P 500 was set to fall more than 1 percent when the U.S. markets open, futures showed. In Europe, markets were down 1 to 2 percent, with the Stoxx Europe 600 1.5 percent lower. Asian indexes closed lower.

“The rampant nature of Omicron and its potential impact in sharply slowing global growth is continuing to unnerve investors,” Susannah Streeter, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, wrote in a note to clients. “Uncertainty about the year ahead is rippling through the markets.”

Over the weekend, more European countries announced restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Netherlands on Saturday became the first European country to announce a lockdown in response to the variant. Britain’s health secretary said on Sunday that he could not rule out imposing new restrictions before Christmas. The minister, Sajid Javid, did not deny speculation that the government was considering a two-week “circuit breaker” that could mean curbs on pubs and restaurants.

Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, said it would scale back its predictions of economic growth because of recent pandemic restrictions. The bank forecast the German economy would expand by 2.5 percent in the current quarter, down from the 3.7 percent increase predicted in June.

Airline and travel stocks fell sharply in early European trading. But the biggest decliner in Britain’s FTSE 100 was Informa, which organizes large in-person events. It fell 4.5 percent, after shedding as much as 6.9 percent earlier.

In the United States, the future of President Biden’s $2.2 trillion domestic policy bill was put in doubt after Senator Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat, said he would vote against it because he feared it would inflame inflation.

The impact began to weigh on prospects for the economy, adding to the negative sentiment in markets. Goldman Sachs said in a research note that it would scale back its projected growth for the U.S. economy next year.

Oil prices also fell on Monday. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark dropped more than 3 percent to $68.66 a barrel. Energy stocks were among the biggest fallers in global markets.

Moderna shares rose 5 percent in premarket trading after the vaccine maker said a third or booster shot significantly raised the level of antibodies that can thwart the Omicron variant.

Elizabeth Holmes.Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A jury was set to begin deliberating the merits of the fraud trial against Elizabeth Holmes, the entrepreneur accused of lying to investors and patients about her blood testing start-up Theranos, on Monday.

Ms. Holmes’s trial has stretched nearly four months, with testimony from dozens of witnesses including scientists, chief executives and a four-star general. The proceedings have come to represent a defining moment for the tech industry and its culture of overly optimistic salesmanship.

The jury of eight men and four women will debate whether prosecutors have shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Ms. Holmes committed nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud while pitching Theranos to investors and patients. Her former business partner and boyfriend, Ramesh Balwani, was indicted alongside her in 2018. Both have pleaded not guilty. Mr. Balwani faces trial next year.

Each of the 11 counts carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, though they would most likely be served concurrently. Deliberations are scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Ms. Holmes’s case stands out for its rarity: Few tech executives have been indicted over fraud, fewer have gone to prison and even fewer than that have been women.

The case covers more than half a decade of business dealings. Ms. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 and the start-up went on to raise $945 million from investors such as Rupert Murdoch, the family of the former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the heirs to the Walmart fortune. Theranos conducted more than eight million blood tests on patients.

Ms. Holmes’s rise to the top echelons of the business world was covered breathlessly by the news media, as was her downfall. Theranos collapsed in 2018 after whistle-blowers exposed its problems to The Wall Street Journal and federal regulators. The saga was documented in popular books, podcasts and documentaries; soon it will be featured in scripted shows on Hulu and Apple TV+.

During the trial, Ms. Holmes took the stand for seven days. It was the first time she had publicly told her side of the story. She acknowledged making some mistakes and blamed colleagues for others. She cried while accusing Mr. Balwani of emotional and sexual abuse. He has denied the accusations.

Last week, prosecutors and Ms. Holmes’s defense lawyers summarized their points for the jury over hourslong closing statements.

Kevin Downey, Ms. Holmes’s lawyer, said she did not purposely mislead investors and patients with her statements. She thought Theranos’s technology worked, he argued, and investors misunderstood statements she made about what Theranos planned to do in the future for what it could do at the time.

“She believed she was building a technology that would change the world,” he said.

Jeffrey Schenk, an assistant U.S. attorney and a lead prosecutor, pointed to evidence showing that Ms. Holmes was aware that Theranos’s tests had accuracy problems and that its business was failing. Ms. Holmes chose to keep the company alive by lying, he said.

“She chose fraud over business failure,” he said.

Senator Bernie Sanders at a rally with striking Kellogg workers on Friday. Union members at four Kellogg cereal plants will vote on a second contract offer.Credit…Carlin Stiehl/Kalamazoo Gazette, via Associated Press

Elizabeth Holmes trial: The jury is expected to deliver its verdict in the fraud case against Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos sometime in the week. Closing arguments concluded on Friday. Ms. Holmes is accused of 11 counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.


Nike earnings: The footwear giant is set to report its financial performance for the three months ending in November. Investors will look for signs of whether global supply chain disruptions affected the company’s finances in the months leading up to the holiday season.


Kellogg contract vote: Union members at four Kellogg cereal plants will vote on a second contract offer after rejecting a deal with the company earlier this month. Workers have been on strike since October over the company’s two-tier compensation system, in which workers hired before 2015 have higher wage scales.

General Mills earnings: The company, whose products include Cheerios and Pillsbury, has said it will raise prices on a wide range of products next year to offset higher supply chain costs and transportation challenges.


Markets closed: The U.S. stock market will close as Wall Street observes Christmas, which falls on Saturday.

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