Omicron Variant

San Jose Businesses Worry Omicron Variant Will Force Shutdowns Again

NBC Universal, Inc. It’s not a matter of if, but when, cases of the omicron variant reach every Bay Area county. And the wait has small businesses worried and bracing for another round of financial hardships. Stephanie Magallon reports.

It's not a matter of if, but when, cases of the omicron variant reach every Bay Area county. And the wait has small businesses worried and bracing for another round of financial hardships.

Many businesses in San Jose are now just slowly recovering from the first California shutdown, but now with worries about omicron, some business owners say their employees are already asking them if they are going to have to shut down again.

Sparkling gowns, tuxedos and party decorations fill Elegance Bridal San Jose. All needs is the people and parties - and that's the rub.

“One hundred percent because that’s what we do right, we do parties all the time,” said owner Luis Nuñez.

He said his business started picking up in September, but now he and his employees are concerned the omicron variant could derail their recovery as it spreads across the United States.

Preliminary studies from South Africa indicate infections from omicron appear to be less severe than other variants. Thom Jensen reports.

They cater to big events and if the new variant leads to a new wave of cancellations, it could send them back to square one economically.

“I just hired an employee like three weeks ago, I believe, my second employee and I'm going to have to lay her off and keep one part time,” said Nuñez.

The good news is health experts say they're not ready to recommend any cancellations yet because what they are learning about the variant isn’t all bad news.

Early signs suggest it may carry milder symptoms than delta.

“What is striking to me is that people who are admitted for something else happened to be infected with COVID, they weren’t infected with COVID as the reason to go into the hospital,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong of UCSF.

He added that even hospitalized patients are showing milder symptoms and do not have to be transferred to an intensive care unit as often.

On the down side, omicron appears to spread faster than any other variant.

Chin-Hong describes it as a Maserati sports car versus a Prius. And says prior COVID infections don't appear to protect people from the new strain.

“More than 40% of people have had some sort of infection recently, they got hit hard with delta recently in the last 90 days and that was not enough to protect people from being hit again with omicron,” said Chin-Hong.

The big remaining question is, do the current vaccines protect against omicron? He said we'll likely have that answer in about two weeks.