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Omicron COVID surge worsens local worker shortage

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Got an urge to pick up a couple dozen wings from your favorite local eatery? Lately, you may or may not be able to get your favorite fast-food meal. Worker shortages locally have been exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 surge of the Omicron variant. From fast food to the construction trades, employees are ill or missing, causing businesses to shorten hours or close. 

On Monday, the state of Utah reported 24,147 COVID-19 cases over the weekend. Hospitalizations locally were up 10% over the last several days, according to Intermountain Health Care, as cases have risen dramatically. The Omicron variant is much more transmissible, so it’s affecting staffing at many health care and other medical care settings. 

“It’s unrelenting the amount of work– it’s stressing all of our systems. Everything is being affected,” said Dr. Todd Vento, Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Diseases Physician.

Many businesses were struggling hiring workers before the Omicron surge. “Now hiring” signs have been posted in nearly every fast-food and retail concern throughout Lehi for many months, but now, with illness creating employee absence, many businesses have been forced to adjust hours. 

“We are really struggling to keep our crews going. We can only do what we can do. We can’t grow now; we just need to maintain. Now this week, we have five guys that are sick,” said Dennis Schoonover, owner of Schoonover Plumbing in Lehi. 

Jenn Lowder, an assistant manager of the Macy’s grocery store in Lehi said that hiring and keeping employees is difficult. “Between COVID and the competition to hire workers, it’s a challenge, most definitely,” said Lowder. 

Many employers will continue to struggle to hire and retain employees in the coming months as competition for service industry jobs is intense and workers deal with winter illnesses and COVID-related challenges. 

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