Today’s COVID-19 news: More big events canceled, hospitals make do worldwide

The Grammy Awards have been postponed because of the surging omicron COVID-19 variant.

The 64th edition of the music industry’s most prestigious — and sometimes most contentious — annual awards show had been scheduled to take place Jan. 31 at Los Angeles’ newly named Crypto.com Arena. (Until December, the venue had been known as Staples Center.)

And, just two weeks before it was to be held in Park City, Utah, the Sundance Film Festival is canceling its in-person festival and reverting to an entirely virtual edition due to the current coronavirus surge.

Festival organizers announced Wednesday that the festival will start as scheduled on Jan. 20 but will shift online. The festival had been planned as a hybrid, with screenings both in Park City and online. Last year’s Sundance was also held virtually because of the pandemic.

Internationally, Hong Kong authorities announced a two-week ban on flights from the United States and seven other countries and held 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship for coronavirus testing Wednesday as the city attempted to stem an emerging omicron outbreak.

The two-week ban on passenger flights from Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Britain and the United States will take effect Sunday and continue until Jan. 21.

France announced a staggering 332,252 daily virus cases Wednesday, smashing a string of recent records, as hospitals prepared drastic measures to brace for patient surges and the government strained to avoid a new lockdown.

With Europe’s highest-ever single-day confirmed infection count, France is facing an omicron-driven surge that is dominating the race for April’s presidential election and increasingly disrupting workplaces, schools and public life.

Back home, hospitals across the U.S. are feeling the wrath of the omicron variant and getting thrown into disarray that is different from earlier COVID-19 surges.

This time, they are dealing with serious staff shortages because so many health care workers are getting sick with the fast-spreading variant. People are showing up at emergency rooms in large numbers in hopes of getting tested for COVID-19, putting more strain on the system. And a surprising share of patients — two-thirds in some places — are testing positive while in the hospital for other reasons.

At the same time, hospitals say the patients aren’t as sick as those who came in during the last surge. Intensive care units aren’t as full, and ventilators aren’t needed as much as they were before.

The pressures are nevertheless prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency surgeries and close wards, while National Guard troops have been sent in in several states to help at medical centers and testing sites.