Omicron wreaking havoc on businesses big and small already struggling with higher costs, labor shortage

The new omicron variant is putting more pressure on businesses that are already having a hard time because of the ongoing pandemic and size doesn’t matter.

Two Walmart stores, one on U.S. 98 North in Lakeland, and another in Auburndale on U.S, 92 West, recently closed for a day so workers could sanitize the stores as a result of COVID-19.

Smaller businesses may be under even more pressure.

At El Olivo Mexican Restaurant in downtown Winter Haven, on many days business is only half of what it used to be. The family-run operation is also struggling with sharp price increases.

"All food prices have gone up," stated Paula Villarreal. "For example, oil. What we used to buy for $36, now we pay $78."

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Villarreal says meat prices are way up as well. As a result, the restaurant has increased the cost of meals.

A few doors down at Union Taproom, a new business owned by Colin Wells and his wife, it is all hands on deck because of the pandemic. When an employee feels a little sick, the policy is no questions asked.

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"We don’t want to chance it," he told FOX 13. "There are not that many tests, so we say, ‘Hey, steer clear, and we’ll make we cover it.’"

Employees calling in sick just compounds the ongoing worker shortage problem. Many businesses are short-handed because they can’t find people to fill the open positions.

Manufacturers, importers and others in the supply chain are down workers too, which means some items may be difficult or impossible to get, or delayed.

"Between Christmas and New Year’s we saw several of our businesses, five or six, close for several days, because of the variant moving through," said CEO of the Greater Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce Katie Worthington Decker.

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