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With Omicron In LA, How Are Businesses Preparing?

A restaurant kitchen employee wearing gloves and a mask uses a knife to slice meat on a wooden counter.
A worker wearing face mask and gloves slices pastrami in the kitchen of Langer's Delicatessen on June 15, 2021.
AFP via Getty Images)
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There’s a lot unknown about how the omicron variant of COVID-19 could affect the workforce in Los Angeles.

While Google won’t be returning to offices on Jan. 10 as expected, some of L.A. County’s largest employers are keeping tabs on the situation.

“In consultation with Public Health, we are monitoring the variant closely,” said Greg Kandaharian, L.A. County’s public information officer for human resources. “[We] believe that the strong protective measures we have in place now are an effective response, given what we know today.”

Last year, all county offices shut down because of COVID-19. Since then, they’ve used preventative measures such as staggered shifts and physical distancing. About 37% of county employees still work from home, Kandaharian said, although many assignments are “first response, disaster service needs, and public facing jobs.”

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Some Employers’ In-Person Work Continues

UCLA also has employees working remotely and in-person, though the student body is mostly in-person. Bill Kisliuk, director of media relations at the university, says decisions about moving online are made by each department.

“We are not currently considering an increase in remote work,” he said. “Our current plan is to have the vast majority of courses held in person. If conditions warrant a reconsideration of this plan, we will revise our plans as appropriate.”

On a smaller level, some business owners are confident in their ability to keep themselves and customers safe. The rollercoaster of public health guidelines prepared them to adapt quickly.

Proof Of Vaccination And Masks Help Put Folks At Ease

Rosie Sevilla works at Boulevard Hairstyling, her sister’s hair salon in Highland Park. The earlier waves of the pandemic hit their business hard because they couldn’t accept clients. This time around, Sevilla says she’s less concerned about the omicron variant because clients have to show proof of vaccination.

“No one comes here without a mask. I feel like we’re doing pretty good,” she said. “I have my vaccine. We know how to not spread COVID now.”

At Sara’s Market in El Sereno, owner Sara Valdes says she’s talking with her husband about what to do if the omicron variant becomes widespread.

“We have talked about if it gets to that extent, that we might go back to the things that we were doing before,” said Valdes, adding that their delivery service could return. “That just depends on how extreme it gets.”

She’s also confident that, if needed, it’s easy to pivot again because they know what works for their customers. Valdes says they were partially closed during the week last year because supplies ran thin, and they wanted to protect themselves and the neighborhood.

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“Not only for myself," Valdes said. "We're also concerned for our community, making sure that we try to keep everybody safe as we possibly can."

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