Google has mandated weekly COVID-19 tests and surgical masks for employees at its facilities as Omicron infections rise, accounting for more than 98 percent of cases in the United States.
“To help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 during this period of heightened risk, we’re implementing new temporary health and safety measures for anyone accessing our sites in the U.S.,” a Google spokesperson said, according to Reuters.
For remote workers, Google is offering free at-home test kits for all members of their households. Full-time workers will have access to kits that give instant results from Cue Health, while contractors will get the mail-in BioIQ tests, according to a series of critical Twitter posts from the Alphabet Workers Union.
Omicron has spread quickly across the country, but the highly transmissible variant is characteristic of mild symptoms requiring significantly fewer hospitalizations than the Delta variant.
Several prominent organizations and doctors have suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic would turn endemic, and the disease could be treated on a seasonal basis like the common cold, with Omicron signaling the beginning of the transition.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates recently came out in support of this argument.
In the United States, cases increased more than 568 percent from Dec. 14, 2021, when the seven-day average was 119,379, to 798,335 on Jan. 14. However, the number of deaths recorded a much smaller change from an average of 1,148 on Dec. 14, 2021, to 1,784 on Jan. 14.
Google is one of the strictest among Big Tech corporations in enforcing the mandates. Last month, the company required all employees to get inoculated or face losing pay. Failure to comply would result in getting fired. Just a few months prior, the company stated that it wouldn’t enforce mandates.
Unlike other tech companies that have moved fully remote, Google has shown faith in offices as the company recently invested around $1 billion to buy a building in central London where it’s currently a tenant.
Google representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.